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November 28, 2017

Sixers to partner on new Wilmington sports complex for D-League affiliate

The importance of a strong NBA Developmental League affiliate has grown in recent years, as NBA franchises continue to look for every possible advantage they can find over their competition. Teams continue to bulk up their international scouting and analytics departments, and the leveled playing field makes keeping a watchful eye over the D-League more critical than ever.

With that in mind, the Sixers are investing some additional resources in their affiliate accordingly. Beginning in early 2018, PhillyVoice has learned the ownership group behind the Sixers (Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment) will partner with a local real estate developer on the 76ers Fieldhouse, a 140,000 square-foot sports complex in Wilmington that will serve as the home arena for their D-League affiliate.

The building(s), which will include a 2,500 seat arena designed for said home games, will also serve as a multi-sport complex designed to promote youth sports participation. Three full-size professional basketball courts and two indoor turf soccer fields will stand alongside an additional athletic training and performance area, with an aim of hosting both local sports competitions and training sessions.

Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki expressed his excitement about the arrangement in a press release provided by the 76ers, highlighting the impact on local children specifically.

"The new sports facility will be among the finest in the country for a city our size," said Purzycki. "This also answers our residents' call for healthy options for our kids. Wilmington's children will be primary beneficiaries of the many levels of programming provided by this magnificent facility."

Tentative plans suggest the project is going to move forward rather quickly. A groundbreaking ceremony has been planned for Q1 2018, and the Sixers say they expect 76ers Fieldhouse to be the home arena for the 87ers starting with the 2018-19 season. That's a pretty quick turnaround for a project of this size, so we'll see if unexpected delays force them to alter any plans.

As always, there's the issue of how it gets paid for. According to a source familiar with the arrangement, the Sixers will effectively serve as the lead tenant in the complex being built by The Buccini/Pollin Group, a developer based in Wilmington. While an advance press release provided to PhillyVoice stressed the building will be privately funded and include various corporate partnerships—including naming rights which are to be determined—financing details are still being finalized, and local/state investment of some kind is a possibility, per a source. 

An additional point of interest worth mentioning: the team's D-League affiliate, currently known as the Delaware 87ers, is apparently in the process of being rebranded. The team must await approval from the league in order to go through with the change, but for those of you who own 87ers gear, you may soon be holding onto an outdated piece of merchandise. Or a piece of history, if you're feeling more optimistic.

In any case, the new complex will offer the (soon-to-be former) 87ers a home all their own, having spent the rest of their time playing at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark. If you've been looking for an excuse to check out a D-League game, getting a glimpse of the new arena next year is as good an excuse as any.