In an agreement made between the Cincinnati Bengals and Hamilton County on April 17 of this year, both parties were able to resolve several issues that they had been working on for quite a while. The most newsworthy aspect of the agreement was the prospective (and later completed) addition of General Electric to The Banks on the riverfront. But also, it was announced that the Bengals would be contributing $6 million toward improvements for Paul Brown Stadium.
Among those improvements is a near $2 million investment to improve team facilities at PBS, including locker room expansion and a new weight room.
Bob Bedinghaus, Bengals director of business development and a former Hamilton County Commissioner, was at the forefront of the negotiations for the Bengals.
"We started talking about the possibility of a new weight room about five or six months ago," said Bedinghaus. "It was really all tied up with whether we could work with the county to get access to the space. We had gone back and forth several times, and as we moved along on the design at some stages it looked pretty hopeful that we would be able to work with the county, and at other stages it looked like there was no way we would ever be able to come to a deal. It all came together with the GE addition and it all got wrapped up into one agreement. It works for the county, it works for us, and it's all come together pretty nicely."
The entire project of renovating team facilities has been broken into three phases, with the first phase currently underway. Phase one is the expansion of the locker room, which will be completed by the time they players report for training camp. Needless to say, things are going to look a little bit different when they return.
"There's a snowball effect of changes that we're doing in the team space," said Bedinghaus. "The first project is an upgrade to the locker room, where we're adding 30 or so new lockers. We are bumping through the wall into the player lounge and adding additional lockers.
"Since we've moved training camp back here, we have the need for additional locker space. Also with the players that are on injured reserve and the players that are on the practice squad, we were already bumping some people out of the main locker room, so it's just more convenient to have everybody in the same locker room and everybody part of the team.."
The second phase of the project is for a new weight room and training facility. The current weight room has been the same since the opening of PBS in 2000. There is also a smaller aerobic room across the hall from the weight room. The new weight room, to be built in a space currently unused, will be nearly double in size.
"I believe it's a 4500 to 5000 square foot weight room now," Bedinghaus said. "We will be relocating it on the other side of the team space on field level to a space that's a little bit larger than 8000 square feet. The design is evolving to the point where we will have the weight room and the current gymnasium as one big room. There are a lot of walls that will be coming down, which will obviously give us more room for (strength and conditioning coaches) Chip Morton and Jeff Friday for their training."
Because the location of the new weight room is away from current team space, construction will begin and will be ongoing throughout the upcoming season. The transformation of the gymnasium to training facility will begin after the season. The gym also doubles as a cafeteria with an adjacent food service area. In order to combine the new weight room with the new training facility, several walls will have to be knocked down.
"The area that is currently the gymnasium and doubles as our cafeteria will end up with a new surface flooring that will allow trainers to actually do some conditioning inside," said Bedinghaus. "It's going to be a softer version of the gym floor. It's very conducive to running as opposed to the hard floor now. That project will probably wrap up after the season is over. We can do a lot of work on the primary weight room area because we won't need to knock down many walls during the season. After the season over we'll knock down the walls and get working to make it one big training facility."
One activity players enjoy is shooting hoops in the gymnasium. They often engage in friendly, but quite spirited three-point shooting contests. Despite all of the upcoming changes, Bedinghaus assures there will still be a basketball hoop for the players.
"The one thing that we are going to make sure we maintain is the basketball court," said Bedinghaus. "When you're down there during OTAs you can notice guys really enjoying shooting hoops. It appears to be a very important bonding activity. We've even gone to the point to make sure you can bounce the basketball on the floor we're going to have."
Bedinghaus said that the new floor surface for the training facility will likely have markings for coaches if the space is needed for a walkthrough for days of inclement weather. Also, markings are planned to be there for the purposes of the strength and conditioning coaches and the trainers to aid in their usages.
The final phase of the project will not begin until next offseason. It will involve the movement of the studio of JungleVision Producer Scott Simpson. Simpson has a studio on field level which is used for various interviews throughout the season, as well as the weekly television show, Bengals Weekly with Marvin Lewis. The current studio location is in an area which will be overtaken by the new weight room and training facility.
Simpson's studio will be moved to where the aerobic area is right now, the food service area and cafeteria will move to the old weight room, and the players lounge will be in the old food service area, adjacent to the training facility.
Summing it all up, Bedinghaus says:
"If you think about it, from the locker room to the meeting rooms to the player lounge to the training facility and weight room, it's all right there together and it makes perfect sense."