The Bucs' new facility
Much has been made over the 31-year history of the Tampa Bay NFL franchise, about their team facility. One Buccaneer Place was built in 1976 for the expansion team to have its home, and for the next three decades, it was just that - home.
Described as being "state of the art" by owner Hugh Culverhouse (thereby meaning "whatever I could build for the cheapest price), One Buc Place slowly fell from being one of the supposed-best facilities in the league, to being a joke.
Situated next to Tampa Airport, practices would often be interrupted by the deafening din of planes taking off and the smell of jet fumes would often blow across the twin playing fields,
The buildings itself were big enough back in 1976, but as the franchise expanded during the 1990s under the new ownership of the Glazer family, new prefabricated buildings were quickly knocked up next to the existing offices and even sheds and trailers were used on occasions in that time.
"The old woodshed" is how Jon Gruden described it in 2002 and he was being kind. The locker rooms were too small, the weight room was not big enough and ended up being extended into the porch overlooking the practice fields, and player and coach interviews were conducted either under or next to that same porch. In short, the facility had become a joke.
The new home
But not any more. I was lucky enough to be one of the first non-staffers to see round the new facility during my recent trip to Tampa. And even for that, I had to get personal permission from Joel Glazer and then twist Scott Smith's arm to be my guide. And what a world of difference between the two complexes. One Buccaneer Palace is the right name for the new building.
I have been going to One Buc Place since 1988 and have seen the changes in the franchise over the years. And just like the video clips on Jon Gruden looking at the new facility for the first time, I walked round the new complex with my jaw constantly hitting the floor in amazement. Believe me, no expense has been spared at all.
Gruden specifially did not visit the new complex until it was finished, so the clips you can see on the Bucs' own site are legitimate. The coaches' offices are spacious and superbly equipped with the latest technology for analysing game film. Solid stylish wooden doors and leather seats abound, and there is a real element of space about the whole complex.
The meeting rooms are spacious and well equipped. There is also a player auditorium where Jon Gruden can address all his team and this would not look out of place in a Fortune 500 company boardroom. I only wish I could have taken more pictures of some of these areas as they really are something special.
The old complex had a caterer come in daily to do lunches for the players and it was a free for all in one of the corridors to grab your food before returning to eat in either a team meeting room or the locker area. Not any more. A fully-equipped kitchen and dining area with permanent catering staff. TV screens all over the place and more decent seating.
And the players also now have their own relaxation area with seating, video games and pool tables. The weight room is just massive and could fit two full rosters, and the locker room could accomodate nearly 100 players if necessary.
There are three playing fields as part of the complex and although none have Field turf or are covered, the Bucs own the land behind the new complex and rumours remain that once the complex is fully completed, work will start on a covered playing field to allow practice to continue during wet or thundery weather.
In short, this really is "state of the art". This facility was built with the needs of the players, coaches and staff in mind and a lot of preparation went into its development with visits being paid to other new complexes around the NFL. The IT and video areas are out of this world in terms of technology, and you just get the impression that no-one is going to want for anything now.
What will it mean?
But will it mean more wins for the Buccaneers? Not necessarily, but it can only be good for the franchise. It has long been a joke amongst Buc staffers that any potential free agents would be taken to downtown hotels and then Raymond James Stadium, but only shown One Buc Place after they had signed a contract. Not any more - this will be the first place they get to see.
It is all about eliminating distractions that could lose games. The Glazer family promised to build a new stadium and they did. They promised to build a franchise that we could all be proud of and they did. They promised to build a new team facility and they did.
No NFL team can win every game every season, that much is true. But Malcolm Glazer once told me "it can't happen on the field, unless it happens off the field first". The preparation for future seasons has been laid in the foundations of this fantastic new building.