Seahawks new digs make a big impression

The Seahawks’ new Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton makes – and leaves – a lot of impressions on viewers. The first impression is green, or the massive corrugated green walls of the indoor practice field.

  • Thursday, September 4, 2008 6:11pm
  • Sports

The view from a loft designated for a cardio workout space. The outdoor playing field is viewed through windows at left

The Seahawks’ new Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton makes – and leaves – a lot of impressions on viewers. The first impression is green, or the massive corrugated green walls of the indoor practice field.

Stepping inside the lobby, brick, glass and wood make their mark. Wandering through the VMAC, you get a lot of other feelings: spacious, ample, occasionally even luxurious, but the one that stays with you is: well-designed.

The team tossed what was needed, what was wanted and what was possible into a mixer and the product is one of the NFL’s best team facilities.

Simply put, everything is bigger and better than the facility in Kirkland. Total square footage jumps from 41,000 in Kirkland to 225,000 in Renton. The new facility’s footprint is 19 acres, nearly twice the 10 acres in Kirkland. The VMAC is the league’s only waterfront facility and the only one with a dock.

On the wall in the lobby in steel and blue, four simple lines lay out what the team is all about. “Football is our passion. Character is our commitment. The 12th Man is our focus. Excellence is our goal.”

The indoor practice field is the center of the facility located in north Renton at 12 Seahawks Way. The rest of the building forms a three-story “L” attached to the practice field’s southwest corner.

The first floor includes an auditorium, weight room, lounge, equipment room, media production studios, rehabilitation facilities and the locker room. The auditorium seats 146, in oversized plush chairs.

The two-tier weight room is more than twice the size of its Kirkland counterpart and has roll-up glass doors that open to the three outdoor practice fields. Free weights and machines will be downstairs, with cardio equipment upstairs. Between mirrored walls, glass walls and roll-up doors the weight room appears even bigger than it is (6,000 square feet).

The ceiling is open for much of the weight room, giving the upstairs a loft feel. There are a number of excellent photos on the walls, including one of a bird’s-eye view of Qwest Field.

Upon walking into the new locker room, a giant Seahawks logo on the floor makes the first impression. The logo is close to 20 feet long and is bright against the background of blue carpet.

Each locker has an oversized, black padded seat. There is a rod and a number of hooks to hang clothes and other things, as well as cabinets and shelves above for even more storage. Each locker also has an electrical outlet.

After looking around, the oversized lockers, flat-screen TVs and overall feeling of openness give the room a luxurious feel. The new locker room increases in size by nearly six times from the Kirkland locker room and fits nine more permanent lockers. The new room also has 16 temporary lockers, something not available in Kirkland.

Rehabilitation and injury prevention should be more efficient in the VMAC. In addition to the 4,300-square-foot training room and trainer offices, there is a current pool for players to use for low-impact running. The pool is 30 feet long, 8 feet deep and has video capabilities so trainers can pinpoint problems if necessary.

Outside, there are three full-size, natural-grass practice fields bounded by I-405 on the east and Lake Washington on the west. Along the practice fields is a berm that will seat about 1,200 fans. While final decisions haven’t been made, there’s a good chance there will be no fence or barrier between the berm and the practice fields, meaning fans will be close to the action with an unrestricted view.

The indoor practice field is the VMAC’s biggest feature both in square footage and in appearance. The massive green walls are what first catch the eye from the outside. Inside is a full-size field fitted with the same FieldTurf as Qwest Field. For coaches and observers, there is a 20-foot buffer around the field’s edges as well as a viewing deck on the third floor.

The building’s height is the most impressive feature. From turf to rafters is 95 feet, with another 17 feet from the rafters to the ceiling. The massive height allows players to practice any football situation, including punts and kicks, without restraint.

The room is not insulated or heated. A ventilation system maintains the temperature to match the outdoor temperature so players can practice in close-to-outdoor conditions. Translucent glass panels on the east side of the field allow natural light in and give great depth to all of the action inside. A vacuum system cleans and re-shapes the turf between practices.

The three-story-high corridor between the practice field and the rest of the building is filled with banners featuring the team’s Ring of Honor. The Ring of Honor is a prestigious group of people honored for their contributions to the Seahawks. Walking along the hallway and seeing things like Chuck Knox in his light blue sweater and no frills “Seattle Seahawks” hat is like stepping back in time.

Ring of Honor members: Steve Largent (1976-1989) wide receiver, Pete Gross (1976-1992) play-by-play radio announcer, Dave Brown (1976-1986) cornerback, Curt Warner (1983-1989) running back, Jacob Green (1980-1991) defensive end, Jim Zorn (1976-1984) quarterback, Kenny Easley (1981-1987) safety, Dave Krieg (1980-1991) quarterback, Knox (1983-1991) head coach and Cortez Kennedy (1990-2000) defensive tackle.

The second floor is predominantly football operations including dining areas, a kitchen and a large number of meeting rooms among other things. The dining area features full glass walls with a view out to Lake Washington, not a bad place to catch a meal.

Each group (quarterbacks, defensive backs, etc.) has its own meeting room. The spaces look like small classrooms – though the oversized desks and chairs give something away – with rows of seats and a “command center” at the front with any multimedia capabilities that the coaches would need.

There is even a large draft room. Coaches and team personnel will use the space for scouting and for the drafting process.

Monitors throughout the facility will show the food menu of the day, daily schedules and other information. Time is a big factor. Most rooms have a large LED clock, so there will be no excuses for being late.

Business operations will occupy most of the third floor. There will also be a Seattle Sounders FC staff on the floor.

Along with the viewing deck, the gem of the top floor is a private viewing suite. The room has massive sliding glass doors that open with a view of the practice fields and Lake Washington off to the right. The room will be furnished with casual furniture and is set up for a buffet.

Adam McFadden can be reached at amcfadden@reporternewspapers.com or 425-255-3484.


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