It is always nice to be a part of something even though you may not really be a part of something.
Since the new stadium is just over a year away from its expected completion, plans are being made and exchanged between all different departments of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the construction liaisons. My particular assignment, as drawn up by our head coach, was to talk to a number of guys on the team and submit a blueprint of what the new player lounge should look like and what kind of amenities it should have. I'm not certain if he meant the locker-room as well, but I have enough space here for both, so our wishlist for construction and decor -- after extensive consultation -- follows.
In my mind, the locker-room and player's lounge are critical pieces of every team's identity. It is where you spend more time as an athlete than anywhere else in the facility and the reason players still talk about what Edmonton did to theirs in envious, hushed circles. The way it looks and its functionality are almost a measuring stick of a ball club's successes and legacy. The locker-room is the hallowed shrine and inner-sanctum of every football team that sets the tone and is symbolic for the expectations of the players who are fortunate enough to done their colours.
Outside of his regular duties as our equipment manager, Brad Fotty, more so than most anyone else, understands the big picture when it comes to the locker-room. It is our home away from home, and he demands you treat the facilities with the respect earned by those who came before you, those who will come after you and those who put the 10 championship trophies on the mantel.
That being said, the most memorable locker-rooms I have experienced have always been richly appointed and lavish-looking places, almost regal in nature. With giant, dark-wooded lockers, padded benches wide enough for a player to lean back into even if he is wearing his equipment and complete storage bins underneath the seat, they impress upon first glance. Technology has also reshaped the requirements of lockers as these days they should also have a lock-box and at least one electrical outlet per unit, for cellphones and charging of iPods and laptops.
The flooring consideration for a locker-room is always a double-edged sword. Players love walking and lying down on ridiculously thick and coloured carpet, complete with giant team logos. With the stresses your feet encounter on a daily basis in football, it is a small blessing to walk on seriously padded carpet this lush and of this style. But this is also the hardest stuff to keep clean, and locker-rooms require daily sanitation and upkeep, so maintenance is always a consideration. This is somewhat less of a concern these days, however, since nobody plays on real grass anymore and all that the players can track in from the field turf is tiny rubber pellets and moisture, not mud.
For the lounge, it sounds extravagant, but the couches must be numerous and not be cloth under any circumstances. Leather is the only way to go so they can be cleaned properly and so the couches do not become festering sweat stains like they have in the past, and if they happen to massage you while you sit there, so be it. Flat-screen televisions are a must, along with DVD players, viewable from every vantage point, but I do not think the cable feed should ever be on during the season. The only thing you should be able to watch during your work months is film of that week's coming opponent.
The player's lounge requires kitchen appointments. A giant glass-doored fridge is a must so we can see what's in there, a microwave, sink, blenders, some sort of juice bar like we already have, a dishwasher and an industrial-type coffee maker. A large round table with chairs would be ideal too for players to sit down and snack after practice or a workout or to play a quick game of cards or dominoes on. Video-game consoles are an issue of contention these days for locker-rooms as they definitely keep players hanging out there longer, but call me old school as I don't feel the locker-room should be used as an arcade.
Finally, the bathroom is of no less importance. Facilities complete with urinals would be something new for the Bombers clubhouse, and it is important the shower nozzles are at least seven feet high with controls that don't automatically shut off. Throw in a big sauna -- like we already have -- and maybe a steam room, and you now have a facility that communicates to it's players that they are professionals and in the company of giants, and that the franchise they are playing for is a storied one with a rich history.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.