The Toronto Raptors became the first team to beat the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers this postseason when they knocked off the visitors in Game 3 of the NBA’s 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. Could a little home cooking—or home training—be partly to thank for that result?
Earlier this season, the Raptors opened a 68,000-square-foot training facility dubbed the BioSteel Centre, just in time for the team and the city to host the All-Star Game in mid-February. The new facility was built with the idea of giving the NBA’s only Canadian team a unique advantage to attracting free agents and helping its current players prepare better for its biggest games.
“Our vision for the Raptors is to build a championship contender that represents our city, our entire country and our fans with great pride and is ‘world-class’ in every way,” said MLSE Chairman of the Board Larry Tanenbaum in a press conference during the grand opening. “The opening of BioSteel Centre is an important part of that vision.”
The two-story BioSteel Centre features two full-size courts, including six baskets; state-of-the-art locker rooms with individual LG TV monitors above each locker; a large fitness, weight room and training area; an extensive medical and rehabilitation area, including cold and hot tubs and an underwater treadmill; and a player lounge with a full-service kitchen and dining room.
Westbury National served as AV integrator on the BioSteel Centre project, continuing a long relationship with the team and ownership group MLSE. As part of the bid process, Westbury had to commit to having the facility ready in early February so the team could host at least one practice there before the All-Star Game.
The team led by project manager Jorge Rodriguez started its on-site design work last September and ramped up the installation after Christmas, giving them just about a month to have everything done.
“The biggest challenge was product procurement and getting everything we needed on time,” says Rodriguez. Westbury had to pull off a bit of a buzzer-beater, installing four Daktronics scoreboards and shot clocks within two days to make sure the facility was ready for the Raptors.
Because the Raptors have sponsorship deals with Klipsch and LG, that dictated some of the equipment that Westbury used in its installation. In addition to speaker clusters and TV screens, Westbury also installed 12 Panasonic PTZ cameras, one about each basket.
Because the floor was already installed by the time Westbury was doing its installation, they had to get creative in protecting the courts on which players would prepare for games, says Rodriguez. That meant using floor protection plus two layers of plywood.
“You have to manage all of those challenges immediately,” says Rodriguez. “It took a lot of finessing to get the displays in the locker room perfect.” There are seven displays on one semi-circle and the other eight in another semi-circle there, says Rodriguez.
The video room includes a 98-inch LG display on which coaches and players can watch practices to tweak things they see before and after games.
Another key feature of the BioSteel Centre is the “war room,” a technologically advanced cognitive operations center for the team’s management and front office staff. The new interactive operations room, named Raptors Insights Central powered by IBM Watson, was designed by IBM Interactive Experience. It is based on IBM analytics and cognitive technology delivered through a new first-of-its-kind solution called IBM Sports Insights Central.
Through an interactive conference table top display, a curved wall of touch screens and mobile devices, it provides Raptors general management and operations professionals with a comprehensive view of all pertinent data, such as player information, team and league statistics, trade simulation and contract management. It can be extended to include college players to understand their potential for professional play.
“We wanted to make it as user-friendly as possible,” say Rodriguez, noting Westbury worked extensively with the Raptors video coordinator on training for the new setup. “This is their home.”
In addition to the Raptors use of the BioSteel Centre, the facility will also be used for a number of basketball development camps and other community groups. Rodriguez says Westbury hopes to duplicate some of the technology and systems in other NBA cities and it was nice to hear from other team officials during All-Star Weekend about how much they liked what the Raptors had.
Here’s a video tour of the Toronto Raptors’ BioSteel Centre: