8 awesome places inside the Bucks' new Downtown practice facility
Gallery: Bucks open the doors on the Sports Science Center
The first piece of the Milwaukee Bucks big Downtown renovation is officially complete, as the Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center – located on the corner of 6th Street and Juneau Avenue – opened its doors this morning.
The shiny new 77,500-square foot space will serve as the Bucks' new practice and training facility, just across the street from the new arena (as opposed to their old training center at the Cousins Center, out in St. Francis) and adjacent to the impending Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin McKinley Health Center, its first health center in the heart of the city.
"The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center is going to give us a very distinct advantage in on-court improvement, rehabilitation and player recruitment," said Bucks President Peter Feigin, in a press release.
"We thank Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin for their great partnership with the Bucks. We are proud to provide the very best for our team and to welcome our players, coaches and training staff in their new home."
Leaders from Milwaukee County, Froedtert, The Medical College of Wisconsin and the Bucks organization formally introduced the Sports Science Center at a press conference and ceremonial ribbon cutting early Thursday afternoon.
"Our goal is obviously to have the best team on the field, and that starts in this building," said Bucks co-owner Mike Fascitelli at Thursday's press conference. "Milwaukee deserves the best team, and the players deserve the best facility – and we think we delivered that."
"This is going to change the way we do things," added new Bucks General Manager Jon Horst. "This facility gives us an opportunity to improve our recruitment efforts and retention efforts across the board, as well as enhance the development of our players, our staff and the opportunities that come along with having a space like this."
After the ribbon-cutting, the Bucks took the media on a tour of the new facilities – complete with a cameo from the Bucks new first round draft pick, forward D.J. Wilson.
"It's like night and day," said Wilson. "This reminds me a lot of where I came from at Michigan; they had a nice gym, but this is real nice. I can't even put it into words. I think it's going to help us a lot – especially on the medical side of things, with the hot tubs, the weight room. And then the courts are really nice, too."
And after walking through the new Sports Science Center, one can understand his enthusiasm. Here's a peek at some of the new locale's hottest spots.
1. The patio
The first stop on the tour was a porch area to meet GM Jon Horst. Now why does this building need a fancy porch area – complete with an unmatched view of the new Downtown arena and, eventually, a grill and fire pit? In the future, this open-air porch will be where Horst and the rest of the Bucks brass will bring and meet future players, trade possibilities and draft picks to help pitch Milwaukee as the place they want to be. And with the impressive arena growing in the background – and the advanced training facility throughout the rest of the building – it's a pitch that'd be hard to pass.
2. The Gatorade fuel bar
The Gatorade bar is where the sports science part of the Sports Science Center comes into play, as here, Team Chef and Dietician Shawn Zell helps craft shakes and nutrient drinks particular to each individual player's needs. On the tour, we got to sample some of the health-minded smoothies crafted for Giannis and Matthew Dellavedova. Unsurprisingly, Giannis' mix was delicious. The man knows his smoothies.
3. The kitchen
In case the Gatorade fuel bar didn't give it away, the days of players scarfing down junk food – whether at home or on the road – are long gone. However, thanks to the kitchen staff, I doubt many players are missing their Snickers bars or Skittles. At the new kitchen, Zell and company serve up all sorts of foods, all taking in each individual players' dietary needs and requirements into consideration – and all mighty delicious based on what we were served, including quinoa salads, healthy brownies, Jamaican jerk bison meatballs and teriyaki rice bowls, a team favorite and deservedly so.
The kitchen, according to Zell, is purposely designed so that the food – and sometimes the preparation – is out forward in front of the players, in the hopes that they'll have interest, which will grow into questions, which will grow into learning and implementing smart food decisions into their overall diets.
The only person who might not have loved this stop? Bucks Director of Player Development Drew Franklin, whose presentation about the players' lounge had to come immediately after lunch. How are you supposed to follow food?
4. The locker room
Of course the locker room looks cool, with its smooth light wood lockers, thin glowing lights and eye-catching forest green Bucks-centric back wall. But the coolest part might actually be right outside the locker room: a retina scanner, which locks and unlocks the doors for the players.
Actually, forget that Bond movie gadgetry. Truly the most important and essential technology are these little vents inside the lockers – the holes on the top and bottom – which suck out all of that smelly, sweaty post-practice or post-workout air.
5. The barber shop
Snuggled between the locker room and the showers – which are all taller and nicer than any shower you'll ever see – is one of the most vital parts of the new facility: a barber shop, run by Gee's Clippers. After all, the guys get a haircut before every game and road trip. Gotta look good for the big game!
6. The hydrotherapy and training room
If the locker room, with its sweet showers and steam rooms, is about relaxation, then the next two rooms are about recovery: the hydrotherapy and training rooms. The hydrotherapy room supplies the players with several pools to help their muscles recover after a tough practice – including a cold bath that can actually fit the entire team in single file.
Then there's the training room, filled with chairs and equipment for the Bucks health staff to help players tend to their aches, pains and problems.
The fanciest item, however, is obviously the cryotherapy chamber, which entombs players' bodies in extreme cold temperatures (thanks to liquid nitrogen) for three minutes to help their muscles, ligaments and more recover by improving blood circulation and reducing inflammation. Somewhere, a "Final Destination" horror movie writer just got an idea.
7. The courts
Of course, one of the most important parts of a basketball training facility is some actual basketball courts, and the Sports Science Center features two – one for both of the Bucks' court designs. It's a sleek, stylish space, with a bold black stripe lining the entire gymnasium area, complete with "Fear The Deer" written into the stripe and grey versions of the imposing Buck head logo looming over on the courts.
The actual wood itself making up the courts is interesting, too. Installed by Prostar Surfaces, the Wisconsin-grown maple lumber is about 90 years old when it's chopped down, and underneath the wooden paneling is actually a strong cushion made of recycled tennis shoes that helps absorb the shock of landing on it. It's actually different – and arguably better – than most NBA floors, since this basketball court is permanent, while many arenas have to take out their wooden courts to put in hockey ice or other sporting surfaces.
8. The weight room
One of the final stops on the tour was also one of the most crucial for the players: the weight room, highlighted by a gigantic custom-made fitness rig located right in the middle of the space. The industrial-looking "Ninja Warrior"-esque structure, according to Director of Performance Troy Flanagan and Suki Hobson, Head of Strength and Conditioning for the Bucks, helps the players with pure, general athleticism. They're already great basketball players; it's their job to make sure they're great overall athletes.
Scattered throughout the space are also a spring floor, a trampoline floor, various weights and exercise equipment, and video screens – where Hobson showed assorted videos of the players (including a looking-good-from-recovery Jabari Parker) making use of the equipment and getting into shape. Hobson – who, along with Flanagan, originally talked about ideas and plans for this room back in April 2015 – repeatedly talked about the overall "flow" of the facility, noting how it brings the players through the locker room, training room, weight room, practice courts and dining areas with smartly organized ease.
She also taught a reporter a lesson in asking questions, as he got an impromptu workout for inquiring about the weight room's balance beam.
Emblazoned above the weight room was a message in the Bucks' signature block font: The future is strong. Getting a look through this first completed part of the Bucks new Downtown home base, it's hard to disagree.
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