From the enormous carpet logo to the wood-paneled lockers, the Bucs' new locker room is an inviting place for players
Few football locker rooms are designed with feng shui in mind. Too many sharp corners, too much clutter on an average day, no way to avoid putting some players with their backs to the door.
The vast and comfortable locker room in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new facility is no different; even with its rich oak wood paneling, it would be a stretch to say the space is "in harmony with nature," as feng shui seeks to achieve.
Ah, but the Bucs' new locker room is in harmony with its own nature, and that represents a massive improvement for Tampa Bay players. That is to say, the locker room at the new facility is exactly that and nothing more: A locker room.
How did the Buccaneers utilize the cramped, 3,200-square-foot space they referred to as a locker room at their old home, One Buccaneer Place? Let us count the ways.
It was, on most days, a dining room. There was no room to eat in the hallway where lunch was served and there was limited space in the small sliver of a players' lounge, so most Bucs spent their lunches parked at their lockers, using their padded stools as dinner tables. Since the media was allowed into the locker room for interviews during lunch, plates often grew cold while players accommodated reporters.
It was a meeting room. For most of the team's 31 years at One Buccaneer Place, the players and coaches held their full-team meetings in the locker room. A greaseboard and a projector would be wheeled into the center of the room for presentations and the players would all arrange themselves along the benches in front of the lockers in the back half of the room. It was here that Sam Wyche famously handed out game checks himself after a particularly tough loss.
It was a media headquarters during the draft. Hang a banner on that end, put a food line on that end, set up some tables, chairs and a podium and – voila! – instant press conference/media workroom. The bench in front of Mike Alstott's locker usually held the big-screen television showing draft coverage. Curtains partially hid the bathrooms and showers. Before the team "auditorium" was carved out of a space in the front of One Buccaneer Place in 2002, the locker room was usually home to any other big press conferences the team held during the year.
It was an indoor practice facility. When rain forced the players off the practice field and into One Buccaneer Place, coaches would often try to get in some kind of useful work by holding an indoor walk-through. The only place in the building even remotely big enough to hold such an effort was the locker room, though it was woefully inadequate. Generally, there was room for the offensive line to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and not much more.
That room has held its last meal/meeting/practice, however. The Buccaneers are now in their second week of operations at their gleaming new state-of-the-art facility, and players are beginning to feel at home in their new locker room. That's not surprising; the place was built with comfort in mind. That was a convenience that had long been left behind at One Buc Place.
"I came here about two years ago and I got to One Buc and I was looking around saying, 'What?'" said tackle Anthony Davis with a laugh. "But then we come to this place and it's just amazing. It's the best. I love the locker room. There's so much space in there. At One Buc Place we were so crowded together, especially we offensive linemen bunched up in the corner. These new lockers, there's so much space in each one. It's wonderful."
The locker room at the new facility covers 7,000 square feet – more than twice the size of the one it replaced – and looks even more spacious thanks to the vaulted ceilings, subtle lighting and lack of clutter in the middle. The locker room at One Buccaneer Place needed two rows of back-to-back lockers in the middle of the floor to get every player into one, and those rows removed any hope of clear sight lines or walking paths. The new locker room has a few small rows of lockers on the floor, too, but they won't be needed for much longer and they take up a very small percentage of the total area.
The oak paneling and accents are everywhere, giving the room an opulent feel. The carpet, in turn, returns the focus to the team; it is dominated in the middle by a huge versions of the team's logo, measuring about 40 feet from one tip diagonally to the other.
The most noticeable feature of the room is its depth. One can walk into the east end of the locker room, across the hall from an equally cavernous equipment room and feel like you're a Joey Galloway bomb away from the west end, where many of the veterans have set up shop. The northwest corner holds many of the team's offensive veterans, such as Chris Simms and Mike Alstott, and the southwest corner is home to many of the defensive stars, such as Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles and Brian Kelly. On this day, while the team is on the practice field conducting a morning walk-through, a hi-tech boom box is playing R&B from Michael Pittman's locker in the offensive corner, but the notes are almost muffled on the far end of the room.
"It is bigger and the lockers are bigger," said Brooks. "Just walking in it, you have to really yell across the room to get someone's attention. The carpet in there is nice. I just think the size of it, as men we feel that we have our space. It gives you a locker that you can have some privacy in. Obviously, the rest room facilities are bigger and we have a nice shower. Actually, it is very impressive, to be honest with you. And I just think the size of it allows us, as men, to feel like we have some personal space."
As Brooks suggests, the size of the lockers themselves is an improvement, too. Four feet across, these wood-paneled lockers have enough drawers, shelves and hooks to store any equipment a player might need. Each locker is wired for power, meaning Pittman doesn't have to look for an extension cord for his stereo, as he would have had to do at One Buc. And the ergonomic chairs that sit in front of each locker can be folded easily and tucked away in a compartment at the bottom of the space.
Each locker is also equipped with a ventilation system and two large vents, one behind the low shelf where shoes are stored and one behind the top shelf where shoulder pads are usually kept. In addition to keeping the lockers smelling fresh, these vents also allow the players' shoes and pads to dry 60% quicker than before.
The locker rooms are supported by a much improved shower and restroom area, as well.
At One Buc Place, up to 90 players often had to share four urinals, four toilets, four sinks and about five working showerheads. The new locker room has eight urinals, seven toilets, 14 sinks and 24 showerheads, all in perfect working order and all utilizing automatic sensors. The showers, for instance, only work if a person is standing right in front of the showerhead. Around the four walls of the beautifully-tiled shower room, where 16 of the 24 showerheads are located, there are also 12 mounted dispensers of shampoo and shower gel. The showerheads are equipped with high-pressure, adjustable nozzles.
Sitting side-by-side between the shower and the sinks are a tiled steam room and a wood-paneled sauna. The sinks are set in black marble and set in front of long mirrors. Players can choose between towels and mounted hand dryers after using the sinks.
Gone, too, are the days when players had to eat, play dominoes or read the newspaper at their lockers, or some other stolen corner of the building. Walk through the south doors of the locker room and down a short hall and you're in another expansive, wood-paneled room: the Players Lounge.
The lounge sits on the back edge of the building, facing the practice field with 27 windows stretching up to its high, vaulted ceiling. The room is filled with two black leather couches and 14 black leather chairs, several of them facing the gigantic entertainment center along the east wall. The entertainment center is fitted with five flat screen TVs, one very large one surrounded by four smaller ones. It also houses a sophisticated sound system, which is hooked up to speakers around the room.
Hooked to the TVs are a variety of entertainment devices, including a DVD player and a game console. On this morning, two players have commandeered the TV for a little gaming action, playing World Cup Soccer, of all things. Should they get thirsty, there is a large, glass-fronted cooler built into the west wall and always stocked with water and Gatorade.
Before long, the soccer match comes to an end as the gaming players have to head back to the locker room to get ready for the afternoon practice. The place is already filling up with players streaming in from the dining room just down the hall. Soon, there are dozens of men in the locker room, chatting, putting on equipment and arranging items in their lockers. Even with the whole team in the locker room at once, there is plenty of room to move around. No one is right on top of anyone else. It's comfortable.