It used to be an old skating rink. It grew into the root of success for the NBA's fastest-rising franchise. Without it, and the people who've passed through it, the Oklahoma City Thunder might still be stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity.
Soon, however, the warehouse-style building adjacent the barren parcel of land on Lincoln Blvd. will close its doors for good. A larger, more lavish model will replace it.
But when the Thunder packs up and moves, it will be leaving the only practice facility it has ever known.
And the transition will be bittersweet.
“When we do close the doors here, it'll be interesting,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said at his season-ending news conference on May 27.
“This is the same practice floor that was there when we were struggling, and it's the same practice floor that we came back to after winning our first road playoff game, which was a significant achievement for our team. This has been where we've worked.”
A one-cent sales tax funded the construction of the new facility, which is located just north of Britton Road at the Broadway Extension. Before the NBA's work stoppage, the Thunder had planned on being in its new digs before the start of training camp. Although construction has been delayed, postponing the grand opening by more than a year, the facility still will contain the bells and whistles, inside and out, to make it one of the most luxurious training sites in the league.
“It's way bigger,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “You can get lost in there.”
The two-time All-Star and back-to-back scoring champ continued.
“Our locker room is crazy,” said Durant, who toured the place in late June, days before the league shut out its players. “It's like our locker room at the arena. They've got all these hot and cold tubs. And we're supposed to have a 30-yard turf field in the back. It's nice.”