If you've ever wondered what effect a first-rate facility and environment can have on a professional football franchise, 2013 will be the year we all find out.
For over half a century, Canad Inns Stadium, the facility known as the house that QB Jack Jacobs built, was home to thousands of different athletes making a living playing pro football. Of the 10 championships won by this football club in its history, seven of them happened while the team was housed at 1465 Maroons Road, or roughly one every eight years of its existence.
While most will call it a coincidence, this football team has not won a championship since the old barn approached, hit, and went past its expiry date. For most, what is far more critical than where you play, is who is playing, so could a $200-million-plus investment into infrastructure really improve the on-field product? Should our expectations for a team that tied for last in 2012 be different now that the team will be playing in the crown jewel of the CFL? Without question they should.
The first and most impacting effect will be a phenomena that nearly everyone can relate to. For those of us who have had numerous jobs, the difference in your attitude between going to work in a facility that you are proud of, or an environment that is crumbling and falling apart, is profound.
When the 2013 roster forms for the first time this season at Investors Group Field, even the most pessimistic negatron from a 6-12 team would immediately realize the game has changed. The passion this city has for its football team has finally been matched and paired to the stadium they play in, and it will be an everyday reminder for each player when they come to work. Practising and playing at Canad Inns Stadium was an exercise in compromise. Practising and playing at IGF will be a privilege, not to be taken lightly or for granted. You can tell players new to Canada and Winnipeg until you are blue in the face, that this city has an unparalleled appetite for football and is backed by a first-class organization, but until the facility and infrastructure backs you up, they are hollow words.
Whereas the previous stadium spent its waning years undermining the message to the players of how insignificant their football processes were, the new one spares no expense demonstrating to the roster just how critical they are.
If you want to talk about durability, this facility shows you how serious the organization is about maintaining players' health by the investment they have in the training room. Not only does the new stadium have bigger and more numerous treatment stations, but they have invested in state-of-the-art technology -- like in-house hydro-therapy -- that shows an athlete just how important it is to get back on the field.
When you talk about maintaining strength and stamina levels during a long and gruelling season, a sub-par weight room and fitness facility is almost a deterrent to an athlete that needs to stay on top of their game physically. With brand-new equipment in a spacious and efficient design, this gym will be a magnet for players.
Those that know the game understand how critical it is to spend hours watching film of your opponent, searching for clues and cues that will give you an advantage. When there aren't enough places to watch film, though, and you have to compete with other players to see what you want to see, the environment tells you that maybe this isn't as important as you thought. Yet when you see monitors and film stations around every nook and cranny, your environment conveys the exact opposite message.
Not only will this new stadium confirm to the 2013 roster how serious this community takes its pigskin, and what is required for them to succeed, but it will change the attitude and culture of pro football played in this province. For decades now, players have walked into a stadium of conflicting ideologies and had to remind themselves of what had to be done to succeed. Now the stadium will set the tone and convey the expectations, and it will be up to the players to live up to them.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.