October 23, 2023
Phoenix Mercury hope new practice facility will ‘set the standard’ for WNBA
"It's going to take us to a different level as a franchise," Diana Taurasi said.
By the time the Phoenix Mercury tip off their next WNBA season, the team may have its own, brand-new practice facility.
Earlier this month, the Mercury and Suns announced plans for a new facility in downtown Phoenix’s warehouse district that will cost at least $100 million and be paid for by owner Mat Ishbia.
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The project will turn 58,000 square feet of the 123,000-square-foot space into a new practice facility for the Mercury, who have been sharing the organization’s practice facility for the Suns near Camelback Mountain since that building opened in 2020. But while Mercury president Vince Kozar told The Next that sharing the space was “really special,” he appreciates Ishbia’s willingness to make this happen.
“Mat seeing the need and Mat seeing it as sort of an, ‘Of course’ moment — I mean, ‘Of course both teams should have their own spaces,'” Kozar said. “Both of our teams were ready to outgrow the building on 44th Street and that happened over a span of two or three years, so this gives the Suns even more space for room that they desperately need. And then the statement that Mat is making by building a dedicated facility for the Mercury is one that is true to who he is, and I know our players don’t take it for granted and I don’t think our fans do either.”
Kozar said with support staffs growing for both of the teams, the opening of the new facility gives the Suns the space they need at the current practice facility. It will also limit the need for the two teams to have to shift their practice schedules around to accommodate the schedules of the other team, which grew into a larger issue when the teams’ schedules overlapped during the playoffs.
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“This allows for that not to even have to be a consideration,” Kozar said. ” … Coaches and players are creatures of habit, so if we can have practice at the same time every day, which means they eat at the same time every day, which means they stretch and get treatment at the same time every day. That just makes their experience all the better.”
Once complete, Phoenix will be the third WNBA team to have its own practice facility, joining the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces. Kozar was open about how, under the previous ownership group led by Robert Sarver, the facility the Mercury practice in currently was meant to be shared for the duration of its lifespan. Ishbia declined to to comment to The Next for this story, but according to Kozar, the owner saw the need for the two-facility approach and went for it.
“Mat came in and took stock of everything and this is the solution that he came to,” Kozar said. “Not because he had to. Not because anyone in our orbit was saying we need one of our own. But because he saw that need. And I think the other thing we’re learning is not to be afraid to ask for things like that. Can we have everything? No. But asking for things that perhaps we never would have asked for before, so many more of those things are on the table because of Matt and his commitment to this.”
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The new facility is also planned to be the new business headquarters for Suns and Mercury staff. This will most likely mean the space at the Footprint Center currently used for staff offices will be converted into a fan-friendly space, with Kozar mentioning potential options including an area for young children, a restaurant or club space as options.
As for how the players feel about the facility, Kozar said the ones he has talked to are “incredibly excited.” In speaking to Sports360AZ, Diana Taurasi echoed a similar sentiment.
“I think Mat, from the minute he got to Phoenix, he was very clear that he wants us to be the best sports organization in the world, and the only way you do that is by actually making things happen,” Taurasi said. “For us personally, to have a space where we can work year-round, it’s going to take us to a different level as a franchise. I think, around the league, we’re going to set the standard.”
According to Kozar, the goal is to have the facility ready by 2024 training camp. However, he did say the opening of the facility is fluid based on what happens with the construction process.
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Written by Jesse Morrison
Jesse Morrison covers the Phoenix Mercury for The Next. A native of Roanoke, Va., Jesse moved to Arizona in 2017 to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, graduating in 2021 with a degree in sports journalism. Outside of The Next, Jesse works for Arizona Sports, co-hosting an Arizona State podcast, producing a radio show and writing for their website.