GREEN BAY—Much like the renovated Lambeau Field, it was time for the Packers' football facilities to get an upgrade.
The Packers moved into their new team area – built as an attachment to the southeast end of the stadium, starting underneath the new Oneida Nation Gate steps – after Thanksgiving weekend, and there's plenty of space to settle into.
The new weight room and cafeteria are larger than the old versions, with the most prominent addition, called the "CRIC" for conditioning, rehab and instruction center, functioning like a mini-Don Hutson Center.
"Our facilities have been great. They've served the team well since 2003, but they're 10 years old," Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said. "You look across the league at what other teams are doing with their practice facilities, and we want to have facilities that are among the best in the league. Investing money into the football facilities was the best way to ensure that."
The change is part of, and was prompted by, the plans to renovate the Lambeau Field Atrium, with a new ground floor to house the Packers Pro Shop and a new east-side entrance in the next phase of the development.
In order to make those happen, the Packers needed to move their football facilities to the other side of the locker room on the stadium's east side, and a newly constructed area provided the opportunity to upgrade. The entire project involving renovation of the Atrium and the new team facility is costing $150 million.
Construction began 10 months ago with the rebuilding of the Oneida gate steps, which house a portion of the new team facility underneath.
The new weight room has inset platforms built into the floor within each weight rack for safety, plus four overhead screens that allow workout schedules and regimens to be projected at all angles. The new cafeteria has the kitchen on-site, so the players' food no longer has to be transported from one location in the building to another.
Efficiency was also a main idea in attaching the CRIC to the new weight room via a transparent glass garage door. The CRIC is a FieldTurf area that measures the width of a regulation football field by roughly 30 yards long. It can be used for a number of strength and conditioning purposes, as a rehab area for injured players and for walk-through practices, which are becoming more important as collective bargaining rules limit the number of on-field workouts year-round.
Previously, the Packers used a gymnasium in the lowest level of their team facility for walk-throughs, but now those instructional periods can be more precise, with yard lines and other official field markings available for reference.
"Right now, our players and strength staff spend a lot of time going back and forth from the Hutson Center to here, so having a place right adjacent to them makes it much more efficient," Murphy said. "Creating an area where we can have really productive and constructive walk-through practices made a lot of sense."
A new player resource area is also included among the new facilities, with a bank of computers and meeting space available for Director of Player Development Rob Davis to assist players in financial education, degree completion, career counseling and the like. Adjacent to that is a lounge and recreation area that features a pool table and a ping-pong table.
All of this is fronted by a spacious entryway not yet accessible from the outside, but it will be soon once the players' parking lot moves to the area immediately south of the Oneida steps. That parking lot will eventually be set off by a new decorative iron fence that will replace the current chain-link fence surrounding the players' vehicles.
The entryway and hallway that connect the locker room to the new areas feature many of the same wall hangings and murals from the old area, depicting different eras of the team's history, plus one new mural featuring the Super Bowl XLV title.
Portraits of the team's Pro Football Hall of Famers and small ceiling banners representing the franchise's championship years also were moved over. The team's five retired jerseys are prominently displayed in new glass cases.
"We want the current players to appreciate the history and tradition of the Packers," Murphy said. "That's one of our biggest advantages as an organization.
"Given our values, having really nice facilities and promoting among the players our history and tradition was a priority. Our main goal was to make it functional and helpful in our goal to win championships."