Built based on science, Mavs’ new locker room is designed to maximize performance

The Mavs spent last summer developing a new practice facility, and they spent this offseason giving their locker room a significant upgrade.

From pumping in clean oxygen casino-style to manipulating light to maximize the players’ circadian rhythm, the new locker room is a futuristic science experiment, one of the most technologically advanced in the NBA. “I really wanted to build it based on science,” owner Mark Cuban said.

Dallas hadn’t given the facility inside American Airlines Center a wholesale face lift since the arena opened 16 years ago. At the time, the Mavs’ home was renowned at the time because each player had a TV and PlayStation inside their locker. Over the years, though, players are taking body maintenance much more seriously in order to increase the length of their careers, so amenities like casino-style re-oxygenating air vents and facial recognition software that will send coaching notes and workout plans straight to players’ tablet upon entry mean a whole heck of a lot more than a video game console.

Cuban said Harrison Barnes and Dirk Nowitzki provided input throughout the process. Judging by some of the Twitter reaction from players around the league, it looks like the Mavs’ new digs are the talk of the NBA. Hopefully the technology will not only benefit the Mavs on the floor, but also when it comes to appealing to potential players in the future.

“You lose track of time,” Cuban admitted. “We’ve been here since 2001 and hadn’t really changed anything, so it was time, and it just made sense. Having just done the new practice facility (last summer), we wanted to give people a reason to still be here, and again take advantage of whatever we could to give ourselves a competitive advantage.”

Every little part of the new locker room is designed to maximize performance on the floor, from the sensory elements to the air the players breathe. Throughout the day, the lights and scents in the locker room will change in order to increase cognitive processing. Carefully controlled light, smell, and temperature can literally improve how your brain and body perform on a biological level, both before and after physical activity. (Click to enlarge the photo.)

The players will breathe in the cleanest air possible. Gensler, the company the Mavs partnered with for the project, also works in casinos. Anyone who’s sat at a blackjack table for too long will know it’s not only the sights and sounds on the floor that keep you awake, but it’s also the air, which is constantly re-oxygenated in the vents. Those same vents are in the locker room, so the players will always be breathing in the maximum amount of oxygen with the goal of improving the quality of pregame workouts and helping with recovery after the game.

“Having spent too many hours in casinos with Dirk and other players over the years, we noticed that it keeps us up,” Cuban jokes. “Otherwise we would’ve been in bed at 11.”

Then we get to the cool stuff. The Larry O’Brien Trophy from the Mavs’ 2011 championship run sits in a case prominently displayed in the workout room, flanked on either side by the Western Conference Championship trophies from 2006 and 2011. Those are the first things a player will see when arriving to work, and no matter how intense the light is throughout the day, the trophies will always shine as the players are lifting weights or running on the treadmill. (A neat little Easter egg: Blue light shines off the trophy wall and through the cases, and viewed from the side the light spells out “Dallas Mavericks” in Morse code.)

Included in the players’ actual locker is a ventilated shoe drawer, a tablet-charging dock, a refrigerated cup holder, and a personal safe. A personal favorite: Each hanger displays not only the Mavs logo, but also the Dallas skyline. Better yet, almost the entire project was completed by Dallas-based companies.

“We wanted to make a point to hire local, support local, and really bring in people who are part of the community,” Cuban said. “We had a few transplants that we had to bring in for a few things now and then, but probably 98 percent of all the hours invested in this were from people who were working here locally. So I wanted to thank those people. They did an amazing job.”

As preseason begins and the players spend more time at the arena, it will be interesting to see how they like it. Nerlens Noel told me on media day that it looks like a spaceship, and he meant it as a compliment. If Cuban’s goal was to impress his own players and once again build a locker room that’s the envy of players around the league, he’s off to a good start so far.

“We really tried to go out of our way to give ourselves an edge,” he said.

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