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Training facilities: LA Lakers' new HQ

The NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers recently signalled a new era for the organisation, combining business and basketball operations under one roof. Matthew Campelli speaks to principal architect Carl Meyer from Perkins + Will’s LA studio about the project

Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 1
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Perkins + Will’s Carl Meyer
Perkins + Will’s Carl Meyer

The NBA has entered a race of sorts, with teams across the league investing in world-class training facilities that help them recruit the best athletes. With a recent move to its new US$80m UCLA Health Training Center in California, the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the teams leading the way.

Designed by ROSSETTI and Perkins+Will, the facility integrates business operations with a holistic approach to player performance, health and training. Designed to enhance connections between various departments, the facility aims to convey that everyone in the organisation is an integral part of ‘the business of basketball’.

Can you tell us about the project?
Since the early planning stages in 2012, we worked closely with ROSSETTI and Lakers leadership to create a new headquarters that would unite operations in one facility for the first time since 1999. The goal was to foster a strong organisational culture to support the future of the Lakers while proudly celebrating its past.

Focused on connection, operations are strategically programmed around the highly visible central courts, making the game of basketball visible from almost every part of the facility. This interplay of transparency between court level and second level executive offices creates a sense of unity, connectivity and community through all levels of Lakers operations. From the championship trophies sitting above the courts in the office of the president, to the rooftop logo visible from the planes landing at nearby LAX – the legacy, history and identity of the iconic franchise is showcased inside and out.

What was important in the planning stage?
The most important thing was to integrate operations. The training and business operations were previously located in separate buildings, the result of years of growth. This project was an opportunity to create a physical space that could transform day-to-day operations.

How did you do this?
We spent weeks in brainstorming sessions with ROSSETTI and the entire leadership of the Lakers. These resulted in a vision that focused on enhancing connections and making a long-term investment in the team’s success.

How will the building promote on-court success?
Inside, spaces encompass everything a modern sports team could need. In the old days, players would just go to a gym, practice and go home. It was just a matter of getting the workout in. That’s the opposite of what is happening today. Now, there’s a full programme of activities, which includes nutrition, strength training, recovery, injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Wellness, health and performance are weaved heavily into the design, with features like a new cryotherapy chamber to maximise recovery and agility. Courts have been designed with conditions that mimic the Staples Center conditions – everything from the lighting to the acoustics – so players are perfectly prepared for game day.

Supporting player wellness is a much more holistic effort than it was in the past. Recognising that recruitment and retention is not just limited to the courts, aspirational player spaces feature world-class amenities reflective of the status of an elite Laker player – such as the players-only lounge which also provides the team with enhanced opportunities to connect off the court.

The use of data and performance analytics has also expanded inside the new headquarters. Players get feedback on everything that happens in training. This data is incredibly detailed, giving coaches an advantage when it comes to game time decision-making.

Where did inspiration come from?
We researched numerous facilities around the world from a wide group of sports organisations and looked to exceed the status quo in every aspect possible – from the player spaces to the workplace design.

How does the new facility compare to those of other teams?
It’s probably the most advanced in the world, certainly in the NBA. How long this will be the case, I’m not sure, as other teams are understanding not only the importance of a good training facility but the importance of the holistic approach to winning and success in team sports. Aligning the Lakers with progressive design and methodology around training, wellness and injury prevention will help the team attract the best and brightest in the NBA.

By creating an innovative partnership with UCLA Health, the Lakers are also investing in a commitment to improving the health of Los Angeles by creating opportunities for community engagement in health and fitness. The 120,000 square-foot facility marks a vibrant addition to the local community in El Segundo. One of the courts converts to a 750-seat exhibition court providing opportunities for community and public interaction.

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