ALAMEDA – Joe Gomes took over as Raiders strength and conditioning coach on Jan. 28, bringing a modern training philosophy to a team slowly emerging from the old school.
He didn’t have tons to work with at an outdated Alameda facility worse than many college programs. He was going to make do with what he had. After a major renovation to the Raiders complex, requested by head coach Jack Del Rio and created with owner Mark Davis' checkbook, Gomes has a whole lot more.
The Raiders finished this massive undertaking by the time the team broke training camp in Napa on Sunday night, and unveiled their new digs during a press tour on Wednesday morning.
The players were impressed.
“There were a couple of jaws on the bottom of the floor when we came in,” Gomes said. “They were excited, and they were ready to go to work. We wanted to create an inspiring training environment for the guys and that’s hopefully what we captured and the feedback that we’ve had has been great"
The changes are drastic. The Raiders added an 18,500-square foot performance center next to the main building featuring four times the amount of training equipment, a nutrition bar, an artificial turf field and massive screens showing film, news and Raiders highlights. They added a steam room and doubled the size of the trainer’s room.
The practice fields – often criticized for contributing to injuries – have been completely redone with new grass and irrigation and drainage systems.
“The exciting thing is that it exceeded the expectations we had for the facility,” Gomes said. “We knew what we were trying to achieve, and the organization did an excellent job of making it a reality. We wanted a great training environment for the guys and an inspiring place to work hard. The second thing is about time, which is our most precious commodity here. We wanted to make sure we have the space and equipment to effectively manage time. We’ve been able to capture both of those things in one facility.”
Players used to have to work out in shifts in the old weight room. Now the entire team can train at once. The team loaded it with technology from space-age training stations to video screens to a functional training surface in the middle of the complex.
“We can use the space for education,” Gomes said. “There are a lot of different ways that people learn, and most guys learn by doing. This set up gives you an opportunity to watch plays on film and then work on a skill on the turf. We’re not only focused on training, but we’re trying to help their on-field efforts as well.”
A facility of this size and scope normally takes 200 days to build. The Raiders did it in half that time.
The field renovation took a bit longer.
“We rebooted the whole area,” said Raiders director of football administration Tom Delaney, who spearheaded the entire renovation project. “ We took out 1,200 trucks of material that was here before.”
The practice field were raised 14 inches to help with drainage, and a specific Bermuda grass was brought west on refrigerated trucks. The team installed new irrigation systems that should prevent soggy conditions previously created so close to the San Francisco Bay.
The Raiders modernized a facility that should help attract free agents and make players more excited to come to work each day, finally bringing this complex up to date.
“Everybody cooperated on this construction,” Delaney said. “It was a great team effort.”