The Jets are adding structure(s) to their lives.
There is the new Meadowlands stadium that comes online for the 2010 season, of course. But for openers, two years before that, the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., will be the organization's new home at some point after the conclusion of this year's training camp.
The Green & White's new state-of-the-art practice facility can be captured in many facts and figures as the frames of the fieldhouse and the main building rise up from the grounds of Exxon's former New Jersey headquarters. But the essence of the new complex also can be captured in a phrase: competitive advantage.
The facility, says owner Woody Johnson, "will offer a competitive advantage for our players and coaches while uniting our entire organization under one roof."
And general manager Mike Tannenbaum says that he and head coach Eric Mangini have respect for the words of a certain legendary Chinese general of 8 B.C.
"Eric has a mural of a Sun Tzu quote in the stairwell of our current facility. The quote is 'Every battle is won before it's ever fought,' " Tannenbaum said. "Eric and I both feel preparation is critical in all aspects of the Jets' operations, and the design of our new facility supports everyone's ability to prepare in the most efficient manner possible."
Some may see "competitive advantage" as a vague, Joe College kind of term. And yet the new facility has already served a college-style function by catching the eye of linebacker Calvin Pace, who got a helicopter flyover of the facility before he signed as an unrestricted free agent. And guard Alan Faneca, after wrapping up his first conference call with Jets beatwriters, hopped in a car to take a tour of the new digs he'd heard about during his "recruiting visit."
Optimal Conditions for Players
There are a number of specific areas in which the Jets could see their training center provide immediate on-field benefits.
One of those specifics is the ability to teach, coach and practice one's craft. The new facility — with an auditorium and a weight room each twice the size of the comparable rooms at Weeb Ewbank Hall, 10 meeting rooms, two private study rooms and a video control room equipped with four editing stations and wired for 21st century football — provides an environment that gives the players optimal conditions for learning, practicing, conditioning and rehabilitating.
"That's been the design focus," said Bill Senn, the Jets' senior vice president responsible for the practice facility. "One of the nice features about the building is that with the fieldhouse right beside and having connections with the classroom areas, nothing is stopping a coach from taking his players 30 or 40 feet out into the fieldhouse to demonstrate something. We really don't have the capability to do that right now. I think this is an environment that's been designed to maximize the learning potential."
The fieldhouse is an impressive structure. It's 103 feet high on the outside to its highest peak, 96 feet from turf to roof on the inside. And at 86,000 square feet, it shelters a full, not a half, field. Entire practices can be conducted indoors, and punts and kickoffs can be launched and returned during special teams periods without having to play the ball off the ceiling.
Also, coaches' balconies will ring the inside and outside of the fieldhouse, 70 feet above the fields, providing pressbox views of the action below.
The Jets' locker room, forever cramped at "the Weeb," especially during the off-season practices and the early days of training camp, soon will be transformed into a columnless 5,500-square-foot expanse that has 68 permanent lockers and can add 32 temporary stalls for an even 100 players.
The new ventilation system in the locker and equipment rooms will dry equipment more efficiently, which will help reduce the spread of germs.
Nutrition, increasingly an area of focus not just on the Jets but in the NFL, will be assisted by bringing the team's catering service out of its current parking-lot truck into a kitchen serving two dining halls, one for the players, the other for the support and business staff.
The trainers' area will be enhanced by the addition of cutting-edge HydroWorx therapy and hot and cold plunge pools.
End of the Neverending Busride
And the proximity of the facility to the Meadowlands itself can't be overestimated. Since 1984 the Jets have ridden team buses from their Hofstra University base to the stadium and back again. The return trip remains especially painful — two, three hours caught in Sunday evening traffic on I-95, the Cross-Bronx, the Clearview, the LIE. The players who took the buses could only sit and stew, especially after a loss, as their bodies throbbed and their free time ticked away.
Commute from East Rutherford to Florham Park after games: about 40-60 minutes.
Then there are the subtle touches built into the Jets' new home:
- The view from every window emphasizes the business at hand: football fields, just fields.
- A yard-line design motif continues from outside the building to the inside, on the floors, the walls — yes, even the ceilings.
- The outdoor fields will have the same north-south directional orientation as the field at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
- A broadcast studio will handle electronic media demands, a far cry from the days when players had to commandeer PR staffers' offices or go to trailers for network interviews or taping segments of team shows.
"The building is very sleek, modern," said Jets president Jay Cross, whose passion and design sense have guided this project that will be a source of pride for everyone in the organization. "It's certainly going to take the Jets into the future. There are some buildings that are called state-of-the-art that really aren't.
"This building truly exemplifies what we believe is the training center of the future, giving our team a competitive advantage in the years to come."