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How Real Estate Helped The Celtics Sign Gordon Hayward

The leaders of Boston’s four sports franchises agree: better facilities and local collaboration is pivotal in recruiting players, growing fan bases and maintaining the city’s winning reputation. 

New Balance President and CEO Rob DeMartini, Boston Bruins President Cam Neely, Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham, Kraft Sports Group COO Jim Nolan, Boston Red Sox President Samuel Kennedy and NB Development Group Managing Director Jim Halliday

“We’re in an arms race competing for the best talent that we can get,” Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham said. “In the NBA, that’s particularly true when you think there’s one player or a short handful of players that can really swing the success of a franchise.”

The Auerbach Center, the new practice facility for the Celtics, is expected to open at Boston Landing in summer 2018. Gotham said at Bisnow’s State of Boston Sports event Wednesday, held on the ice at the Boston Bruins' practice facility, that he showed the construction site to All-Star forward Gordon Hayward while the team worked to lure him to Boston. 

The 70K SF facility will replace the HealthPoint practice facility in Waltham the team has used since 1999. Expanded training facilities, two parquet basketball courts and physical therapy areas are some of the amenities the team hopes will lure more top talent to Boston. Hayward officially signed a four-year, $128M contract with the Celtics last week.

“Facilities really come into play,” Gotham said. “We looked at ourselves, and said, 'you know we weren’t top tier.' We were fortunate to have the good timing to get with New Balance on Boston Landing. It’s integral to retaining and attracting talent.” 

The 15-acre New Balance-anchored Boston Landing has become a sports-focused, transit-oriented development. Another Boston team is using the complex to elevate its visibility and harness new fans. 

“For us, [Warrior Ice Arena] is an extension of trying to grow the game of hockey with our fans and trying to introduce more and more families to the sport,” Bruins President Cam Neely said. 

New Balance President and CEO Rob DeMartini and Boston Bruins President Cam Neely

The 75K SF Warrior Ice Arena opened in September 2016 and has become a community center as much as it is a practice facility. Players are enticed by improved locker and training areas while fans are invited to the 650-seat complex to watch the team practice. Neely said this is how hockey becomes even more enticing within the city. By association, it also helps enhance the brand of New Balance, which has its global headquarters next door. 

“As a private company with a couple of competitors that are four to six times bigger than us, having the facility and association with these top properties says to recruits ... that we’re in the game and not intimidated by size,” New Balance President and CEO Rob DeMartini said. 

The collaboration among teams and friendship among players is well-documented, but it is not necessarily common. Jim Nolan, the chief operating officer for New England Patriots owner Kraft Sports Group, said he was struck by how well the local franchises were able to work together, and Boston Red Sox President Samuel Kennedy added how significant that was because industry is so competitive by nature.

The Presidents Panel speaking on the ice at Warrior Ice Arena

“It’s much more competitive with local teams in our local markets because there are only so many ad dollars,” Kennedy said. “That is really what makes the great relationship we have, as the four professional sports teams, unique, because we don’t have to get along so well.”

During the Celtics' Hayward recruitment tour of Boston, Gotham was able to take the free agent, who had played his entire career for the Utah Jazz, to Fenway Park and show him the city’s most iconic athletic facility. While Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is the official reason Hayward gave for leaving Utah, having the city’s high church of sports pulling out all the stops, with an assist from the Red Sox, could not have hurt. 

“If we need help from the other organizations, we pick up the phone and talk and ask and reciprocate,” Gotham said. “To be able to take a visiting player we are recruiting as a free agent to a cathedral like Fenway, where we don’t own it, is incredible.”