The day some thought would never come arrived in impressive form Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers abandoned One Buccaneer Place and officially began moving into their new, state-of-the-art training facility.

The Buccaneers had called One Buc Place home since 1976. Unfortunately for the team, the new facility was about 30 years overdue as it had a plethora of problems, including climate control issues, a lack of office, locker room and parking space and non-working toilets and sinks. In addition to those challenges, the Bucs’ weight-lifting area was located on the porch of One Buc Place, which didn’t exactly encourage players to stick around to work out.

The old facility, which was an old brick building that featured several double-wide trailers to accommodate Bucs employees, was so bad that the team often entertained free agents in places away from One Buc Place.

But the days of working out of the ol’ “Woodshed” are over. On Sunday, the Bucs started calling their two-story, 145,155 square foot building, which is located on a 14.2-acre lot across the street from Raymond James Stadium, home.

“No one’s going to be making fun of our facility any more,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said from a press conference held inside the new facility’s weight room. “This is one of the great days in Buccaneer history as far as I’m concerned. To be able to come into a facility like this is tremendous. It gives us every reason to look forward to coming to work, and lifting weights, and being a part of this organization year round. I am very appreciative of our owners. Their generosity and their vision obviously speaks for itself. I don’t believe this is the best facility in the NFC or in pro football or in the United States, it’s as a good a place as there is in the world. And we plan of taking advantage of it. And we look forward to free agency in this offseason. We’ll be showing a lot of recruits this building here. I’m floored. I’m blown away. I think as all the media, all the people, sooner or later when they get to see this, they’ll see for themselves that it’s spectacular.”

Gruden, whose Bucs managed to overcome the challenges of practicing at the out-of-date facility by winning Super Bowl XXXVII, believes the new headquarters will better accommodate the entire organization, which is attempting to bring home another Lombardi Trophy.

“Well, I think it will help them in every way possible,” Gruden said of the players. “From treatment, the trainer has everything he needs. Our rehab, our equipment is 100 times more and better than what it used to be. The weight room itself is unlike any weight room I’ve been in, in terms of NFL facilities for 53 players. So increasing strength and flexibility. The meeting rooms and the accessibility players have to video. We didn’t have any of this in One Buc Place. It’s an endless, endless opportunity for a football player to max out and be as good as he can become. And I think it will help build camaraderie and unity and it will entice a lot of people to want to play here and be around here because it’s conducive to getting better. And you’ll see for yourself, it’s off the charts.”

Tampa Bay lost its exhibition game to Miami at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night, 13-10, but you wouldn’t have known it judging by the smile on Gruden’s face as he answered the media’s questions and glanced around the immaculate weight room at the team’s new facility, which will be having the finishing touches put on it throughout the regular season.

“I got in here early and was given the tour,” Gruden said. “And I was right, it is like a library. There’s incredible space here for us to become, I think, much more organized. Our scouting department is going to have 100 times better, I think, opportunity to store information and make it accessible to coaches and themselves. Yeah, it was a great morning for me. I did get a chance to look at the film (of the Miami game) on a new TV, on a new chair, new carpet and the whole thing was quite exciting. Maybe that’s why I liked the film so much.”

Many players have come and gone since talk of a new training facility started back in the mid-1990s, but a few Bucs have managed to stick around, including nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks, who spent Sunday touring the new facility and soaking it all in.

“I must be honest, I have been looking forward to it,” Brooks said. “I fought every desire I had in my body to not come by and look at it. I have only heard about great places that other players have talked about at their facilities from the dining room to the meeting rooms to stadium seating. They talked about these things, so I tried not to let it affect me. I actually anticipated, I kept telling my wife, ‘The new facility, I can’t wait to see it.’ Driving up here today, just seeing a captain’s space that you get to park in. A lot of little stuff like that I am going to appreciate over time. My initial reaction was a sense of appreciation and a real big thank you to our owners. I can’t wait to see them here in the next week to personally thank them for believing in this organization and this team and this vision. I think a championship atmosphere and a championship work ethic is what they had in mind in building this and we have to do our part in delivering.”

Tampa Bay’s new training facility didn’t come cheap. By the time it’s completely finished, the price tag will have been approximately $30 million. It’s money well spent, though, as it bought the team a 7,000 square-foot locker room, a 10,000 square-foot weight room, a 4,000 square-foot auditorium, a team dining room and kitchen, lockers for the coaches, an independent draft room and three practice fields.

However, what that money won’t buy the Bucs is another championship. It merely affords them a better opportunity to accomplish such a feat.

“Believe me, we aren’t going to let a lot of these amenities be distractions,” Brooks said. “If anything, it is going to help us. We have no excuses. We have anywhere we want to watch film, watch tape. I am quite sure you are not going to see a whole lot of guys rushing to get out of here after practice. They are going to sit around and enjoy all of the things that are available to us to really help us become a better football team.

“I think that was something we did at old One Buc Place that no one could take away from us. We worked in those conditions and we built a World Championship team because we made no excuses, we made no explanations. We went to work. I think that is the thing we players have to continue to do no matter what facility we are in. We are still going to have to work hard. We are still going to have to put in the time to build a World Championship team. I think that’s the only goal.”


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