Why San Antonio Spurs’ New Mass Timber Court is Envy of World!

UPDATED: The new facility, the largest mass timber facility ever constructed for a professional sports franchise, sets new benchmarks in engineering, architecture and sustainability.

Tue 19 Dec 23


As NBA powerhouse San Antonio Spurs’ celebrates its fiftieth season in the league, the 5-time champions have US $510 million reasons to celebrate its custom-built “Victory Capital Performance Center,” billed as the “envy of the NBA.”

The milestone, celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in October, featured special guests from the City of San Antonio and the dedicated contractors and construction partners who, according to the franchise holding company, Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E), “played an integral role in bringing the project to fruition.”

For their part, SS&E provided at least US $100 million of funding, with the rest coming from private investors, partners, the city, and the county.

The project, which broke ground in November 2022, features 20 glue-laminated timber beams and is the world’s first mass timber facility constructed for a professional sporting franchise.

Each beam was 130 feet long – the entire length of the practice courts’ – was over six feet tall, weighed over 13 tons and was installed using a 500-tone crane.

“The most exhausting four days”

Designed by ZGF Architects, the architect behind Portland’s PDX International Airport, the glue-laminated beams were supplied by SmartLam NA and installed by Timberlyne Group.

Speaking to Forbes yesterday, ZGF’s lead architect, Kathy Berg, said the design came after “the most exhausting four days of her life” and involved the design team joining the team on a four-day road trip.

In October, the San Antonio Spurs opened it's $510m mass timber HQ - the largest in pro sports history. (Photo Credit: San Antonio Spurs)
In October, the San Antonio Spurs opened it’s $510m mass timber HQ – the largest in pro sports history. (Photo Credit: San Antonio Spurs)

That unique process helped the team understand how the team moves from plane to hotel to game and back again, covering multiple time zones amidst the need to perform in tip-top conditions.

“I realised how little time they spend outside,” she said, adding, “how much time they spend crossing time zones where light conditions are changing.”

Add in sports science research showing the stress of travel on the body, and Ms Berg had a focus:

“Let’s figure out how to create space where athletes, staff members and trainers can get outside and connect to natural light and spend time in nature at a facility focused on recovery.”

The focus for the new sports facility was performance, not just for the 20 players on the roster but for all 100 people who work there.

“If a trainer comes in and doesn’t have the right workspace or tools, it will impact the players,” Ms Berg said before adding that the new facility had to reflect the franchise’s emphasis on a “team-first” elite culture.

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The San Antonio Spurs moved into the new Victory Capital Performance Centre this year. (Photo Credit: ZGF Architects)
Moving from “fortress of solitude.”

Planning for the new centre involved a “root and branch” move from the Spur’s current home, the 30-year-old centre affectionately known as the franchise’s “fortress of solitude.”

The move has seen the Spurs relocate to northwest San Antonio – on the site of a former quarry perched on a solid rock of limestone, which Ms Berg explained allowed “the players and staff to move outside the facility in different ways.”

Ms Berg said staff can now step outside at any of the building’s key spaces – otherwise impossible at the fortress.

There’s an outdoor dining area, a recovery garden for post-workout, a balcony off the office spaces so staff can take phone calls in the open air and two dedicated outdoor training spaces. “We felt that was a great way to think about health and human performance.”

The court space removes the black ceiling and paint from the old facility, allowing the two practice courts and one half-court tech-focused shooting lab to feature north-facing daylight that keeps the glare off the playing surface but allows those inside to see the change in the sky outside.

“They fell in love when they saw it in real life.”

Why the choice to use mass timber construction systems is compelling

The new centre is the first professional sports practice facility to feature timber at this scale.

Using Douglas fir glulam beams (which are the length of the courts) and cross-laminated timber to span the space between the beams, mass timber is the primary construction system used in the build.

According to Ms Berg, mass timber now only allows for a lower carbon footprint—the solar energy produced on-site helps too—but medical research shows timber offers a performance benefit by lowering heart rates and reducing stress.

“Creating a timber structure was a great way to focus on performance,” Ms Berg said. “From an architectural standpoint and aesthetic, it is beautiful and tied to the region’s architecture. We wanted to make it look like it was part of the San Antonio vernacular.”

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The connection to the outside occurs both through materials and design.  (Photo Credit: ZGF Architects)
Not only the envy of the NBA but a milestone for the Texas construction industry

Texas’s largest mass timber building is now considered the most advanced sports facility in the world and is the envy of every NBA basketball franchise, according to Sports Business Journal.

“After a decade of planning and research and nearly two years of construction, we are elated to officially open the doors of the Victory Capital Performance Centre” according to RC Buford, Chief Executive Officer for SS&E. 

“This facility embodies a spirit of innovation, sustainability and a commitment to performance excellence that defines the San Antonio Spurs, Victory Capital, Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. It is a testament to our shared vision for the future of the San Antonio Spurs and the community.”

Spurs executives spent eight years planning the facility and gathering ideas for a project that would benefit the team and the surrounding community. (Photo Credit: San Antonio Spurs)

In July, Mr Burford said the new facility is far more than just a practice gym with a big locker room and some toys; it’s going to be part of what the team envisions as a “global centre for excellence in human and athletic performance” — not to mention a massive commitment to the city of San Antonio.

“We’re not trying to build this to be the best in the NBA,” said Buford, the Spurs’ CEO and part of all five of the franchise’s championship runs. “We’re going to build this for our needs and to have the best environment to help develop the Spurs’ culture.”

The San Antonio Spurs’ NBA basketball practice courts are under construction, dated Sunday, June 25, 2023, in San Antonio. Large windows over the practice court will be included for viewing. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The 134,000-square-foot precinct features practice courts, training rooms, therapy pools, a sensory deprivation tank, a team dining room, and a performance kitchen and is part of a 500,000-square-foot master plan for the precinct.

According to Bobby Perez, SS&E Vice President and Legal Counsel, mass timber construction was instrumental in delivering on crucial environmental requirements.

“We priced it out with mass timber construction,” Mr Perez said in 2021.

In addition to the mass timber footprint, the complex is layered with solar panels, effectively making the facility net zero.

The grand opening coincided with the franchise’s 50th birthday and the recent recruitment of NBA No One pick Victor Wembanyama.


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