Cavaliers to build $20 million practice facility

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Cavaliers are moving to the suburbs.

LeBron James and his teammates will continue to play their games downtown, but they plan to practice in a new $20 million facility in suburban Cleveland beginning with the 2007-08 season.

A deal announced Monday would give Cleveland and the city of Independence a 50-50 split of the millions of dollars in income tax generated by the players.

Cleveland will lose some tax dollars because of the move, but not as much as it would have without the agreement with Independence. The proposal still must be approved by both city councils.

The Cavaliers practice at Quicken Loans Arena downtown where they play their games. The Cavaliers share the arena with other teams and events and want a facility of their own, Cavaliers CEO Mark Stornes said.

"We want to build the best training and player development facility in the NBA," Stornes said. "Just being able to put the players in a position where it's their space -- a year-round facility where they can spend time."

The organization is seeking player input on what the facility will look like and what amenities it will have. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has spared no expense in upgrading the team's dressing area at Quicken Loans Arena, including an Xbox in every locker.

The Cavaliers considered building the practice facility in downtown Cleveland, but Stornes said they couldn't find a piece of land like the one in Independence, about 10 miles south.

"It's a land site that just wasn't available anywhere else," he said. "It's a picturesque, wooded setting."

Independence is a suburb of 7,200 residents with a large commercial sector that brings 30,000 people there daily for business.

Independence Mayor Fred P. Ramos said he did not know if his city will offer tax incentives to the Cavaliers. He believes the deal will benefit both cities.

"When you look at northeast Ohio, no city is a separate community," Ramos said. "It's important that the city of Cleveland do well. It's about being fair."

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said it's an example of how cities can work together on economic development.

"I've always been opposed to poaching, stealing from each other. It does us no good," Jackson said. "This demonstration by Mayor Ramos to work with us will go a long way to send a message to other communities."

Jackson couldn't give an estimate of how much tax money the cities would split or how they would calculate what percentage of the players' salaries is earned at the practice facility.

"Our tax people won't even tell us that," Jackson said. "I just know we'll have half. Let the lawyers figure that out."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)