Nike has unveiled its new LeBron James Innovation Center, a massive 700,000-square-foot research and development institute described as a place “where listening to the voice of the athlete is made tangible.”
Located on Nike’s nearly 300-acre global corporate campus just outside of Portland, Oregon, the completed building houses, among many other things, a “reborn” Nike Sport Research Lab (NSRL). Seattle-based Olson Kundig designed the voluminous complex with Mortenson Construction serving as the project contractor. Landscape architecture firm PLACE was tapped to design the grounds around the sizable new addition to Nike World Headquarters (WHQ). In 2019, Nike announced it would name the new building after kingly NBA superstar-slash-sometimes actor LeBron James. It was initially scheduled to open last year but, like many major projects, was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ohio-born James, who has previously played with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-2010, 2014-2018) and Miami Heat (2010-2014), is currently a small forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. James, is, of course, in good company at WHQ. All buildings and major venues (parking structures included) located on the sprawling campus are named in honor of Nike icons and major figures, including both athletes and coaches, in the world of competitive sports such as Serena Williams, Ken Griffey Jr., Michael Jordan, John McEnroe, Steve Prefontaine, Sebastian Coe, Nolan Ryan, Mia Hamm, and more. (Disgraced Nike track coach and distance runner Alberto Salazar had his name stripped from a campus building in August.)
While AN will publish a more in-depth assessment of the LeBron James Innovation Center at WHQ in Beaverton in the coming weeks, in the meantime we’re sharing newly released photos and key features of the building that, in total, dedicates 84,000 square feet to sports research.
Five times the size of its predecessor facility located within WHQ’s Mia Hamm Building, the NSRL, which was first established in 1980 thousands of miles away from Beaverton in Exeter, New Hampshire, includes over 800 pieces of testing equipment and 400 motion-capture cameras. The lab facility takes up the entirety of the top-heavy building’s conspicuously cantilevered fourth level. The underside of the cantilever features a concrete waffle slab that serves as a sly nod to the iconic waffle pattern found on the soles of early Nike sneakers.
Joining the NSRL at the LeBron James Innovation Center, which is organized around an open central atrium meant to foster collaboration, is an NBA regulation-sized basketball court, a 200-meter endurance track, an artificial turf training pitch, and a 100-meter straightaway—all, as Nike explained, “in service of capturing athletes in motion at full speed.” A series of four advanced environment chambers also test athletic performance levels within a variety of climatic conditions.
“Our goal every single day is to make athletes better and to make the world better for athletes,” said Kathy Gomez, VP of Footwear Innovation at Nike. “Understanding more types of bodies, more genders, more backgrounds and different ability levels helps us create better and more specific product.”
On the topic of performance, Olson Kundig designed the LeBron James Innovation Center to be a high-efficiency powerhouse that, according to the firm, “embodies the concept of speed, inspired by the high-performance physicality and athleticism the brand represents.” At the same time, the structure also treads delicately on the environment. Powered entirely by renewable energy, the building features a 908-panel rooftop solar array and includes a bevy of water-and energy-saving features.
Per Olson Kundig, the LeBron James Innovation Center is the second-largest LEED-NC v2009 Platinum building on the West Coast and the largest in Oregon.
You can take a full and comprehensive tour of the LeBron James Innovation Center here, all without having to slip on and lace up your Air Force 1s.