April 05, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) Tony Ressler had one early objective when his ownership group bought the Atlanta Hawks last June.

''From the first day I toured our practice facilities, I felt that the Atlanta Hawks were and are at a professional disadvantage facilities-wise,'' Ressler said. ''My view was that it was job No. 1 to change that. That was absolutely our first and highest objective.''

The Hawks announced Tuesday they've partnered with Emory Healthcare to build a new practice facility and move team headquarters to a new campus a few miles north of Philips Arena before the 2017-18 season.

Other NBA teams, such as Minnesota, Cleveland and Chicago, have joined with regional healthcare companies on similar ventures in recent years, but Dr. Scott Boden, the director of Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center, said this partnership is unprecedented.

''This goes much beyond sponsorship and naming rights,'' Boden told The Associated Press. ''It's a much higher level of integration of two organizations in sports. The Hawks will have Emory's whole sports medicine division and entire orthopedic division not even two blocks away.''

Peak Performance Project, a California-based center that tests and trains athletes, is onboard to join the project, too. The 90,000-square foot complex will be located in Brookhaven, about seven miles from Philips Arena.

''It's really something that doesn't exist in the NBA or really in almost any professional sport,'' Boden said. ''And then when you add this will be the only other office for P3 beside Santa Barbara, we expect that this will be essentially the hub for professional athletes in all sports for the entire East Coast and Western Europe.''

Hawks president and head coach Mike Budenholzer said the addition of P3 and its founder Dr. Marcus Elliott will give his team a competitive advantage.

''In our industry, they are so well respected,'' Budenholzer said. ''Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver (and) every recent Hawks draft pick have all been sent to Santa Barbara to be tested so we could learn. We'll be able to do that in Atlanta.''

Ressler, the principal owner of a group that paid $850 million for the Hawks and the rights to Philips Arena, now will turn his full attention to negotiating major upgrades to the arena, likely with public financial support.

Hawks and Emory officials said all funding for the new facility is private.

''We now have a plan to upgrade our player experience and we remain committed in trying to improve the fan experience in every way possible,'' Ressler told the AP. ''We're trying our best to improve this arena and we don't necessarily have the ability to work on the same timeframe as quickly as this projected has moved forward.''

The Hawks have practiced and trained inside Philips Arena since the building opened in the fall of 1999.

Ressler hopes the project will help the Hawks attract NBA free agents and retain star players like center Al Horford, whose contract expires this summer.

''We have a vibrant market, we have a really good coach and a really good team,'' Ressler said. ''You have to have competitive facilities. We know will, no question.''

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