Twenty months after breaking ground, the Indiana Pacers on Thursday unveiled the $50 million St. Vincent Center directly across Delaware Street from Bankers Life Fieldhouse combining team training facilities with health care services for the public.
The five-story, 130,000-square-foot facility houses two full-court practice courts—one named for former Pacers coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard and another for longtime team executive Donnie Walsh—plus high-tech training and recovery facilities for the Pacers players and two floors that will be occupied by St. Vincent.
A good chunk of the building—including areas for Pacers players to train, recover and eat—will not be open to the public. The off-limits parts include a film room with stadium-style seating and massive seats, as well as a sauna room with two large whirlpool tubs and another with an underwater treadmill.
The St. Vincent hospital system will occupy the fourth and fifth floors. The fourth floor will offer primary care and cardiology services to Pacers players and the general public. The fifth floor will have a large sports performance center—complete with a 68-yard-long turf area, a zero-gravity treadmill and special units built into the floor to measure how a person walks or runs.
“These [sports performance] facilities will be available to anyone; from a seventh grader trying to make the school team … to professional athletes,” said Ralph Reiff, St. Vincent Sports Performance executive director.
St. Vincent officials on Thursday said they’re already taking appointments to see patients in the new facility. Health care professionals can see up to 40 patients per day in the fourth-floor facility dedicated to primary care and cardiology services.
The hospital system decided to offer cardiology services at the downtown center due to the needs of the Pacers players and the public, St. Vincent officials explained. Some enhancements—including raised ceilings in some of the exam rooms and extra-long and large treadmills used to test the heart—are intended to accommodate the lengthy and large Pacers players.
It was announced at Thursday afternoon’s ribbon cutting attended by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and a slew of dignitaries that St. Vincent, which has been a Pacers sponsor for almost a decade, is now the "Exclusive Health Care Provider of the Pacers.” Financial terms of that deal were not disclosed.
The facility, which was designed by locally based Ratio Architects, also has an 8,500-square-foot rooftop garden, which currently features basil, corn, lettuce, radishes and bok choy. Vegetables grown in the garden will be used in-house by the Pacers’ food services provider, Levy Catering, and donated to Second Helpings, a local not-for-profit focused on hunger relief.
The Pacers practice courts—adorned by massive signatures of Bobby Leonard and Donnie Walsh—and other areas of the facility feature large windows with panoramic views of the city to the south, east and west.
Natural lighting was a big part of the design, explained Rick Fuson, Pacers president and chief operating officer.
Pacers officials said the entire facility was "privately financed" by team owner Herb Simon.
The Pacers own the facility and will pay the Capital Improvement Board, a municipal corporation, $1 per year in rent for the land usage. The CIB unanimously approved using the land for the project in August 2015. The team and St. Vincent declined to disclose the hospital system's financial arrangement with the Pacers.
The public entrance to the facility is off Delaware Street with adjacent parking. Pacers players and officials can access the St. Vincent Center via an underground tunnel from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which cost about $2 million to construct and was funded by the state through the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s Industrial Development Grant Fund.
Pacers players and executives are confident the new facility will help the team remain competitive and attract free agents.
“You look at the whole league and it feels like a bit of an arms race,” Kevin Pritchard, Pacers president of basketball operations, told a group of media members at the St. Vincent Center on Thursday. “We wanted to make sure our focus is on taking care of the players and sports performance.”
Pacers Coach Nate McMillan told media members Thursday that the St. Vincent Center is elite among NBA training centers.
“I’ve seen a lot of facilities throughout the league, and I haven’t seen one that comes close to this facility,” McMillan said.
Pacers starting forward Myles Turner, who has been working out at the facility for the last 10 days, thinks the facility will definitely be an attraction to free agents.
“I haven’t seen any facility better,” he said Thursday. “It shows the Pacers are fully invested. It shows they’ll do anything for [the players].”
McMillan said one big advantage is the extra space the new facility affords the team, compared to the training facilities in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In particular, he noted the far bigger weight room and the practice courts.
“This allows us to have the space to work with players individually,” McMillan said. “We can be a lot more efficient in what we need to do now.”
The training space the Pacers formerly occupied in the fieldhouse will now be the sole domain of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. The office space vacated within Bankers Life Fieldhouse is in the process of being repurposed and could include some new public spaces, team officials said.
Turner said his favorite elements of the cushy new confines were the massive recliners designed to help the players relax between workouts. He noted that the facility is designed not only to help the players train more efficiently, but also to recover properly and get the right nutrition.
“Our facility has everything,” Turner said. “There really is no reason to go home.”