CALGARY – The Calgary Stampeders are starting the 2010 Canadian Football League with a spacious new dressing room, gym, medical room and a lot of other bells and whistles.
Calgary’s previous dressing room would fit into what is now their shower and washroom.
“The far toilet stall is Alondra Johnson’s old locker and the first urinal is the door out to the field,” said equipment manager George Hopkins on Monday as a way of orienting the old to the new.
With football operations and the coaches moved into a new building across the parking lot, the Stampeders expanded the players’ facility over 200,000 square feet. The players could run short sprints through the dressing room now.
They used to have to go outside to their weight room, which was a mobile home. A workout is now five steps or 30 steps, depending where a player’s stall is, but those steps are all indoor.
Each chair in the medical room has extra-long leg room and the high-tech monitors beside them. There’s a cold pool, as well as a hydrotherapy pool equipped with video cameras to help players rehabilitate injuries.
The Stampeders studied what the NFL clubs in Green Bay, Denver and Indianapolis did when they renovated their facilities.
“We tried to glean the best out of what was all of them and we asked them the important question: What did they do wrong?,” said Pat Clayton, director of medical services. “Based on that, then we came up with this plan.
“Understandably in the NFL, everything is larger than life. We had to modify to accommodate what we wanted to do here. This is as good as any NFL facility.”
The total cost of the renovation wasn’t available, but Clayton estimated the Stampeder ownership group spent over $1 million it.
Players have no excuse for missing a meeting or being late to practice as the day’s schedule is displayed on television screens throughout the facility.
Dressing-room seating is more egalitarian and less hierarchical now, according to safety Wes Lysack.
“We had a thing called “the condos” which was a privileged place to sit and now it’s by position,” he explains. “If you were in the condos, it was kind of a thing of respect. I’d worked my way up to where I was head of the condo board. I established who came in and who left.
“I’d been in the same locker for seven years. Regardless of who you ask, whether it’s my wife or my teammates, I’m a creature of habit. That said, this is a pretty unreal facility.”
Despite his aversion to change, Lysack admits the Stampeders’ shiny new digs could be the difference in a player’s decision to join the Stamps, or another club.
“I won’t get into naming other teams, but you look at other facilities across the league and you look at this, if you’re close on two teams, where you are looking at and where you want to play, there’s going to be a difference between the two,” he says. “It’s an easy sell.
“I played in Winnipeg and their facility isn’t very nice. They upgraded their locker-room and it’s not bad, but there’s a reason why they’re building a new stadium. In Saskatchewan, there’s a reason they’re building a new stadium. Hamilton, there’s a reason why they’re trying to build a new stadium.”