How the Bills' new sports performance center was born

September 4, 2019
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Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Bills spent $18 million over the last year creating a brand new, 41,000 square foot state-of-the-art sports performance center, complete with red-light therapy, hyperbaric therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment rooms, and more. The facility had its ribbon-cutting ceremony back in April, when players first arrived for offseason workouts.

But how did owners Terry and Kim Pegula, the front office, and head coach Sean McDermott decide exactly what should be included in their new training facility?

Back in June, right after OTAs ended and before training camp began, I asked both McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane how the idea was born and what went into all those details.

McDermott said something he noticed immediately when he arrived as head coach in 2017 was that the weight room the team had wasn’t on par with the rest of their facility at One Bills Drive. Then, when Beane arrived just a few months later, he noticed the same thing, which indicated to both of them that they needed to do something about it.  So the two began to talk about improving the facility and let ownership know what they were thinking.

“You guys know how Terry and Kim work,” McDermott said. “They invest in winning and give us the resources.”

But before those resources could be used, they had to figure out exactly what they wanted and why.

“We had a committee,” Beane said. “Obviously we don’t know the newest technologies, so the trainers, the strength staff, some of them flew around and checked out various things and researched some different sports, and they came back and presented us ideas and pictures, and through all that, we met with the developers.”

“This is where it wasn’t just Brandon and I,” McDermott explained. “It wasn’t just myself, it was just all of us. After really just, probably the acknowledgement of ‘we weren’t where we needed to be’ in that area. All the different ideas that were organized and brought together. (Chief Administrative Officer) Dave Wheat did a great job with communication, collaboration, and getting everyone on the same page. And then we were lucky that Nate (Breske), our trainer, had been a part of Chicago’s plan. They just unveiled a new building I think, an entire new building. So they just came fresh off that a few years ago. Our sports science department. There was great, what I would call, collaboration with that effort. And then, as you know, Kim is very dynamic in her thought process in wanting the cutting edge, the pieces, the innovative pieces that were out there. The last thing that we wanted to do was to build a new weight room that was outdated. Right? And so, much like computers anymore, there are challenges no matter how far in front of you that you get. In however many months or years, it’s going to get outdated. With the investment that was spent it was important that we get out in front of it as far as we could.”

Beane said it was about a seven-month process for all of that to happen.

“I think they brought good ideas, and then I think Sean made a great point of, we didn’t want a facility that would look like a country club. That’s a thing that we kept saying, and it was spot on. A, that’s not Buffalo, that’s not us either. There’s a lot of steel. It’s very nice but it’s not excessive. Everything is practical. That was the approach.”

The thought from both the front office and coaching staff was that the new facility would allow their players to recover better, faster, and more efficiently, giving them a better chance to play each week.  

“The needs of the modern athlete change every day,” McDermott said. “So we have to make sure we’re giving them every chance to become the best version of themselves.” 

The Bills had to deal with several injuries while at training camp at St. John Fisher College in Rochester and throughout the preseason, especially to their offensive line. But as they head into opening week Sunday against the New York Jets, they appear to be about as healthy as can be, with those players practicing and ready to go on Sunday. Some of that has to do with McDermott and his staff taking the long-term approach and not rushing players back too soon, risking a set-back. Some of it also has to do with the new performance center and how it’s used.

“Hopefully that’s all baked into that,” McDermott said Wednesday as the team preps for their regular season opener. “With the new facility, our medical staff, shaping practices the right way, using sports sciences baked into that, as well, and then at the end of the day my gut instinct on some things. In terms of communication we have with the staff, it’s open dialogue and it’s a collaborative effort, which I believe is the right way to do it.”

Here’s a peek inside:

This place. Wow. -- pic.twitter.com/BwYG6vhRjW

— Sal Capaccio -- (@SalSports) April 26, 2019

Here’s more, as the media awaits Ed Oliver photo opportunity pic.twitter.com/QgDHp3HBHB

— Sal Capaccio -- (@SalSports) April 26, 2019

Sal Capaccio

Sal Capaccio


Follow me on Twitter @SalSports