To fully appreciate the new Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s training facility in western Florida, you have to consider where the NFL team came from. Before moving into the new facility—built by Hunt Construction Group with electric design/build services by A&A Electric Services Inc., Tampa, Fla.—the team spent its days in aging trailers near Tampa International Airport. The team members often did weight training on a patio outside the trailers and spent the rest of their time in quarters so cramped that they ate lunches in the hallway. Furthermore, they shared their home with a team of rats. 

When owner Malcolm Glazer planned to construct a $35-million new training facility and corporate headquarters, he wanted something better—the best in the NFL.

Opened in August 2006, in time for the 2006 season, this state-of-the-art facility may be unlike any training facility in professional sports.

It began in 2003 when the Glazer family purchased a 55-acre site that once had been home to the Tampa Bay Center shopping mall across from Raymond James Stadium where the team plays. The Tampa Sports Authority holds the lease there.

Team building

Assembling the proper group of construction players was vital to this design/build project. Tampa-based general contractor Hunt was brought on board in a joint venture with Paul J. Sierra Construction. The companies hired Charlotte, N.C.-based Wagner Murray Architects to aid in the design, which would include a two-story, 116,960-square-foot office building, a 19,360-square-foot weight training building and a 9,914-square-foot maintenance building. A&A Electric joined that team at the same time.

A&A brought experience working on design/build projects as well as experience with sports facilities. The company had wired Raymond James Stadium and done interior work on the St. Pete Times Forum (home of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning) and the New York Yankees spring training facility.

“But this one is unique,” said A&A president Andrew DeLaParte. “It is very, very plush.”

Rigorous training schedule

For A&A Electric, the project came with numerous challenges, the greatest being time constraints.

Glazer had every intention of opening by August 2006, which ultimately gave construction crews 14 months to complete the design and construction of the facility. It needed to include the team’s corporate offices as well as the training areas, auditorium and video editing.

Undertaking the project as a design/build was what kept the construction on schedule, said Mark McCaskey, Hunt construction manager. Because the owner had already spent several years working on the design criteria, the drawing and specifications were fairly complete.

“The schedule was very tight right from the beginning, so we had to think out of the box a bit to get the design completed in the most cost-effective and efficient manner,” McCaskey said. A&A and the mechanical contractor were hired as design/build subcontractors, therefore, they could control the pace and sequences at which the documents were produced and could also keep close tabs on the budget through design.

“With only 14 months to construct the project,” McCaskey said, “each subcontractor was selected on their credentials as established contractors in the area.” Hunt sought contractors with reliable reputations and also those that had standing relationships with Hunt Construction.

“The element of trust and cooperation fostered with the subcontractors during the initial phases was crucial to the success of the project. NECA member A&A Electric, using skilled electricians from Local 915 in Tampa, was instrumental in the project, providing electrical, fire alarm and technical installations,” he said.

DeLaParte agreed with McCaskey that the design/build element helped keep the project on schedule.

“The biggest challenge was the schedule,” he said. “Being a design/build project meant there were a lot of meetings.” The meetings covered things such as specific lighting for each area.

“The project had preliminary drawings,” DeLaParte said, adding that A&A sat down with the design/build team to take the project room by room, fixture by fixture. The meetings were ongoing at least 60 days into the construction process.

Ball placement

One of the most striking features of the building is a giant glowing football, which is clearly visible from the road especially at night. The ball is a 20-ton, five-story structural steel and glass sculpture at the main entrance with a glass curtainwall skylight. The skylight is backlit with the team colors using theatrical lighting with color filters. The 40-foot-wide, 70-foot-long football stands at an angle, and the upper tip of the ball extends 55 feet above the ground.

“The whole structure was fabricated on the ground,” McCaskey said, adding that it was cleaned, painted and then raised with three cranes during the final third phase of the facility’s construction. “That was a pretty intense six hours,” he said.

A&A designed the theatrical lighting that would illuminate the ball and cast enough light for the building’s front atrium. The company also installed lighting for the Buccaneers logo and sign that sits behind the ball. This sign shines through the glass if the ball lighting is turned off.

Rooms to train

The Buccaneer’s new weight room has been described as palatial. Connected to the east end of the main building by a breezeway, the window-lined room includes six long rows of machines and free-weight racks—altogether nearly 70 different types of machines. Racks are big enough for players to work back-to-back. And, the machines are specific enough to bend to the need of any player on the team.

Rollup glass doors that open onto the practice fields make up the entire south wall of the weight room. This allows the athletes to open the doors in the nice weather. The weight room is outfitted with high-tech fitness equipment with feeds installed by A&A that can transmit data about each athlete’s training session to a central location for later evaluation. A&A also installed a high-quality sound system and television intended to encourage spending time weight training.

In the physician’s room, A&A brought power for an examination area, which includes IVs and X-rays. The rehab room is adjacent to the physician’s room.

The locker room boasts indirect lighting, which A&A installed to reduce glare. It also provided lighting and power for the administrative offices located upstairs.

But the most popular area may be the hydrotherapy room. In the previous facility, the team had three metal one-person tubs, which were filled with cold or hot water from the tap. The players now can use three large pools, each big enough for a dozen players—one for cold soaks, one for hot soaks and one for aquatic rehab. The third pool is deep enough to submerge a player to his chest and has underwater rails and a floor that rolls like a treadmill.

The new facility also hosts a main video room, which has a raised floor for cabling running underneath. A&A installed a deck of editing machines and five editing stations for rapid game and practice footage edits. Every play during practice and during each game is recorded and categorized to be entered into the system and is instantly available to coaches and players across the building.

Current footage, as well as the department’s servers, is stored in a separate room, while another room across the hall stores tapes from past years. Yet another room stores the necessary equipment for side projects, such as printing labels, repairing equipment and stripping cable.

More rooms of note include the dining room, which comfortably holds 14 tables of eight, and the fully functional lecture hall/auditorium that can seat more than 75 people in a tiered configuration. The auditorium is equipped with state-of-the-art video playback and production equipment and Dolby sound system of theater quality. A&A connected lighting with dimming capabilities and a studio where players and coaches can conduct interviews for television.

A&A also provided teledata for the draft room, which is where the draft picks are done; the process requires up to 100 telephones.

For sometimes-stormy Florida, A&A installed a 500 kW generator that can power most of the building—including the air conditioning—with the idea that players can have full backup power in the event of an outage.

The office building includes space for team operations, media relations, ticket sales, coaching, team meetings and video production studios. The final piece of the facility, the maintenance building, will serve the two illuminated, natural-turf practice fields.

Touchdown!

Understandably, this was a high-profile project, McCaskey said.

“From all accounts, the place looks great, and from our perspective, it has been a very successful endeavor that finished on time and within the constraints of the budget.”

Although McCaskey also was involved in constructing Raymond James Stadium, he said no project has ever been quite like this one.

The completed facility has 296,000 feet of conduit, 1,163,812 feet of electric wire, 4,000 amps of electric service, 34.6 miles of A/V wiring, 97 plasma TVs and 300,000 square feet of grass in its playing fields.

“I’ve been very pleased with the way this looks. Overall, the aesthetic value of this project is really something to see,” McCaskey said.

“It’s phenomenal, like nothing you’ve ever seen,” A&A’s DeLaParte said.   EC

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.