New locker room match Clippers’ vision

LOS ANGELES-Patti LaBelle said it best in her anthem-like hit “New Attitude.” Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a difference. Sometimes that can just come from a new way of thinking.

Wholesale changes are not necessarily the answer all the time when it comes to getting the best out of your workers. When you’re a professional sports franchise like the Los Angeles Clippers, making a subtle a change in scenery could mean a lot more than furniture decoration.

It could very mean that the road to an NBA title has been sowed. At least that’s what Clippers management is hoping for after dropping a new look locker room on its players before they played their first preseason home game of the 2016 NBA season against the Toronto Raptors on Oct. 5.

“I thought the original locker room looked like a high school gym,” Los Angeles Clippers President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker said during a media-invite tour of the facility. “It was concrete block walls with in red and blue and white, and a little bit gray. I was…I have to admit, a little bit surprise when I walked in here the first time. It didn’t-to me-feel like an NBA locker room. This one, to me, does feel like a pro locker room, made for a team that’s prepared to compete at the championship level.”

Instead of preparing for games in a cramped, decrepit and whitewashed locker room, Clippers players have the comfort of actually going to work in a setting more suitable for a professional basketball team. It’s an overdue and certainly welcomed piece of branding done by the Clippers.

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Gensler Sports and Shawmut Construction were part of the creative team to re-design and re-configure the Los Angeles Clippers locker room. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

It shows the ballclub is committed in every facet of the organization to make the team a world-class franchise. If you think little, you’ll get little results. Big thinkers get big results. The direction of the Clippers from its previous ownership regime to the franchise’s guidance under Steve Ballmer has been mind-blowing.

It’s clear that Ballmer, nor the organization, through the plethora of cosmetic and overt makeup changes they’ve made, are small-minded in trying to create a winning attitude and fostering a different culture within the Clippers’ circle. That means electing for change instead of settling with the status quo.

This day has been a longtime coming. These are not your grandfather’s Clippers. A new era typically brings about new vision. Ballmer didn’t pay $2 billion for the Clippers to be included on the NBA’s whipping boys list as laughing stocks.

He paid for a winner. When you come from Microsoft as Ballmer did, you tend to know what time it is when it comes to worthy investments. Re-doing the Clippers’ locker room is part of that investment.

“It was a collaboration and a conversation that I was having with Steve Ballmer,” Zucker said. “He asked about things I’ve seen as I’ve traveled throughout the league to other buildings, whether it be business practices that we can emulate or maybe we can improve upon. One of things that I mentioned during the course of one of those conversations was the fact that the locker room space was really and dramatically….for the past few years, and that ours was in significant need of a facelift.”

Zucker added that the upgrade was essential to the franchise branding and coach Doc Rivers’ vision of team unification.

“It was also something that we could do for our athletes,” said Zucker. “He (Ballmer) talked about workspace, and obviously, given his background, understands that the type of space you work in, leads to a different level of productivity. So it was something that was important to us, to create an environment for them, where it gave a signal to them each and every day they came in to work that we’re going to compete at the top level we’re possibly capable of.”

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The shower space with a spa-like feel is just part of the new look inside of the Los Angeles Clippers locker room. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The change up of the locker room is just the latest chapter in the Clippers’ book, which is reading quite nicely these days. You might  say that the Clippers have a new attitude. The team has come up with a new mascot.

There seems to more stability within the team framework. Rivers is settled in as head coach and president of operations. The L.A. Clippers Spirit dancers are hotter than ever. DeAndre Jordan is showing signs he may have turned the page on his free throw hiccup.

Both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are healthy. And the team finally has a comfortable landing spot for the players to enjoy: the locker room.

Because of the constant activity at Staples Center, the Clippers, working in partnership with Gensler Sports and Shawmut Construction, was only provided with a few months to complete the mission. They managed to pull it off and then some.

“The biggest challenge was the schedule,” Shawmut Construction Director of Sports Venues Eric Geisler said.

Geisler, whose company has re-arranged spacing and done construction work for other sports teams including the Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks, said the Clippers’ new locker room is more up to speed with what Rivers wanted for his team.

The haphazard that was identified as the Clippers’ old locker room just wasn’t working.

“It had seen its better days,” Geisler said. “It was cold. I don’t think it matched Doc’s vision for what this team was going to be when he came here, which you here Gillian (Zucker) reiterate quite a bit. That cold, kind of quaint feeling didn’t resonate well with the team. This is going to be great for them.”

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A revamped training room completes the Los Angeles Clippers’ new locker room. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The finished product, 2,600 square foot and all, now looks like a page taken from Modern Home Magazine or Elle Decor.

The Clippers revived locker room more or less has the feel of being in a posh hotel suite at Four Seasons Los Angeles or The London West Hollywood Hotel at Beverly Hills.

It is so cool. It’s what’s up. It’s what’s happening.

The sailing, open-up ceilings gives the locker room a nice modernization touch. The dark interior surrounding the locker room spaces doubles in the masculinity and coolness department. something right out of GQ magazine.

The plush carpet makes you feel right at home in your living room as you kick back in your recliner.

It’s a unified thing. But the best is still yet to come. It’s hard to believe that there is more, but there is plenty more.

Gensler Sports and Shawmut Construction blew up of the team’s training room, converted the bathing area into a spa-like atmosphere, and placed a team lounge in the facility that is complete with a Dumbo-sized television screen.

This wasn’t lightweight decoration; it was a full-blown renovation process that was done in three months time. And it looks fabulous.

There’s something to be said about improvement from the workforce through the environmental settings those employees are required to produce from. You get a stale, inadequate work environment, chances are those workers are not going to reach the full potential the company wants out of them.

Spice up the place a bit and the likelihood of getting better results increase. That’s what the Clippers are hoping for this season and beyond. A more laudable work environment for the players would assist in that department.

It certainly was a challenge to meet given the narrow window that Gensler Sports and Shawmut Construction had to work with, said Gensler Senior Associate/Project Architect C. Don Williams. But if anyone could have managed to pull it off, it would have been Gensler, the country’s top architectural firm. 

Gensler has erected notable projects such as the new Dallas Cowboys headquarters (The Star), the revamped KCET Studios in Burbank and turned the old Century Plaza Towers on its head with a new, world-class, modern touch. So tight time frame all, Williams said they had to make it work.

“The biggest challenge was just getting all of the amenities that the Clippers wanted in here for the players given the space that they had,” Williams said. “It’s a very loaded space. Staples Center has got more things going on here than in any other arena in the country, right? They’ve got four teams here; they’ve got all sorts of concerts. It’s the busiest arena in the country. It’s just not a whole of space to around. So we had to really work with the space that we had and give them the extra stuff that they wanted to give the players, primarily the lounge, and the kitchen and things like that so that the players can decompress, enjoy and get ready for the games.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1064 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.