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One Buc palace

Team unveils $30-million, state-of-the-art facility expected to be ready in 2006.

By ROGER MILLS
Published March 18, 2004

photo
[Artist rendering]
The new training facility is designed around a five-story, metal-framed football and will be built just east of Raymond James Stadium.

TAMPA - Eight years after Hillsborough voters approved a tax increase to help fund a new Buccaneers practice facility, the team unveiled plans Wednesday for a state-of-the-art, $30-million complex to be built on the site of the former Tampa Bay Center mall.

It will be big - more than 145,000 square feet, or three times the size of One Buc Place, the trailer-laden complex the team has used since its inception in 1976.

And it will be worth the wait, team officials declared.

"I always think that it's important to be patient," said Bucs executive vice president Joel Glazer, son of owner Malcolm Glazer. "Once we go in this building, we're going to be in it for, jeez, hopefully at least 30 years, if not more. So when you're talking about a house that you're moving into for that long, what's a couple more years to get it right (and) get it in the right location?"

Using $12-million from the Community Investment Tax, approved in 1996, and paying the rest themselves, the Bucs hope to break ground within six months. Construction is expected to take 18-24 months, with completion in 2006.

"I am speechless here," Bucs coach Jon Gruden joked. "As you install game plans, you can install it in a locker cell back there, or you can install it in a theater-type environment that's more conducive for learning. The better the facilities, the better teacher I think you can be."

The new home will have two natural grass practice fields and an artificial surface (all equipped with lights), space for 70 permanent lockers, a 10,000-square-foot weight room, a team dining room, a draft room and a team auditorium measuring 4,000 square feet - amenities noticeably absent or smaller at the current home.

"Players are a business," general manager Bruce Allen said. "They're a business within themselves, and one of the reasons they select a club is that they want to make sure they can maximize their talent. Sometimes, that comes from proper training, proper weight equipment and the perfect environment. I think with this world-class facility, we're going to set a new standard in all sports."

Team officials said they are looking into covering the artificial surface to deal with afternoon thunderstorms.

"Obviously, it's an expense and we'll see if we can fit it in, if necessary," Allen said.

The new facility, which is designed around a five-story, metal-framed football and will be built just east of Raymond James Stadium, is not expected to be used for summer training camp, officials said.

The team said the new buildings will require demolition of about one-third of the mall. The rest of the mall is expected to be demolished gradually to increase game-day parking.

Mike Newquist, Bucs senior director of business administration, said the team visited "over 20 facilities" and solicited the input of players and coaches to come up with the perfect complex.

A number of players said Wednesday they can't wait to move into the new digs.

"I think that it shows which direction this organization is heading," receiver Joe Jurevicius said. "In terms of going from the smallest to the biggest, it'll be good because things seem to be a little cramped over here. If we can get that done, it'll be a big difference for our football team."

Added cornerback Brian Kelly: "It definitely makes you proud to be a part of something like this - to have the biggest facility around, to have the best opportunity to be as successful as you want to be. It definitely keeps you long hours at work."

Originally, the Bucs planned to build the new facility as part of Raymond James Stadium and use the expanded locker room on game day. But since the facility will be built across the street, Newquist said the team will consider expanding the small locker rooms at the stadium.

Though completion is a couple years away, the team is banking that the allure of a new complex will become a selling point for free agents. Jurevicius said it can make a difference.

"I think it does have an effect on free agents," he said. "If you have a nice facility, it's going to pay dividends. Guys want to come to world-class facilities. You need a place to train. A place to recuperate yourself. A place to study the game and learn your game plan. That does pay big dividends.

"The team has had a lot of success the past handful of years and made do with what we had," he added, "but it does play on people's minds."

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: New Bucs headquarters and training facility.

WHEN: By the 2006 season.

WHERE: Former site of the Tampa Bay Center mall, just east of Raymond James Stadium.

COST: About $30-million (including $12-million from the Community Investment Tax).

SIZE: 145,000 square feet on 14.2 acres.

CONSTRUCTION: Planned to begin this fall and will take 18-24 months to complete.

PRACTICE FIELDS: Two natural turf, one artificial turf.

LOCKER ROOMS: Will hold 100 players.

OTHER AMENITIES: Team auditorium, lounge, kitchen and dining, media center, coaches studio and draft room.

[Last modified March 18, 2004, 01:20:35]

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