One of the realities of living and working in South Florida is dealing with tropical thunderstorms. In
particular, the threat of lightning is a real danger that must be guarded against
at all times.
Just ask Dave Hack, the Dolphinsí Video Director. Last
year he was nearly struck by lightning while filming a training camp practice
from an elevated metal platform. Fortunately, quick thinking by Hack prevented serious
The Hack incident underscores the unpredictability of
Mother Nature. Not just an issue of safety, weather has always affected the teamís
ability to practice on a predictable basis. While the Dolphins have lightning
detectors and other weather information sources to help protect the team, they
did not have a way to make up for lost field time.
When training camp opens this month, a new covered
96,600 square foot practice facility will be ready for use. Inside, a modern
FieldTurf surface complete with a climate control system as well as simulated
crowd noise gives the Dolphins an added advantage in preparing for future games,
such as those in domed stadiums or on artificial turf.
This new facility also gives the Dolphins the ability
to get out of the heat and humidity when desired. This will be a huge benefit later
in the season when the coaches sense that the players are overly tired and need
Preventing lost practice time should yield a better
prepared football team. Getting players out of the heat when needed can also mean
a fresher team later in the season.
The fear is that excessive use of this new facility will
equate to a softer football team. If the team runs indoors every time a summer
shower comes rolling through, sans the lightning, or spends a high percentage
of time inside on hot days, an important early season advantage will be lost as
few teams relish coming into Miami
in September or October.
What a sight it would be to have the Dolphins gasping
for air alongside the Bills!
Donít count on Nick Saban allowing this to happen. He
has experience preparing teams using similar venues, most recently at LSU. Saban
is just too focused on winning and making sure that everything the team does is
directed to that end.
So is Wayne Huizenga, who spares nothing in making
sure the Dolphins have what they need to win games. Everything is first class,
no expense too large to create a competitive edge for his Dolphins. Not
surprisingly, Sports Illustrated recently ranked him as one of the NFLís four
Keep in mind that this new indoor practice facility likely
cost the Dolphins something in the neighborhood of $9 million. Thatís no small
sum, even for Huizenga.
Of course this facility is not unique to the NFL. Many
teams, particularly those in cold weather cities, have had them for years.
Does this mean that the Dolphins now have the same
advantage that those teams had over them in the past? With respect to preparing
for crowd noise and the feel of artificial turf, the answer is probably yes.
Huizenga and Saban recognize that there are many ways
to gain a competitive advantage in todayís parity ridden NFL. Hiring (and
paying) the best coaches is one edge we saw the team exploit last year. The new
indoor facility is yet another.
Said Bryan Weidmeier, Dolphin President/Chief
Operating Officer, ďTo have a great franchise, you need to have great ownership
and a head coach who really cares about allowing his athletes to succeed. We
have both here in the case of Wayne and Nick. Since Nick came in last year,
support, weíve remodeled the locker room at Dolphins Stadium, we retooled a lot
of the back-of-the-house things like the video systems, etc., to give our
coaches state-of-the-art equipment to work with. Last year we added lights to
our practice facility, again, to deal with cycles of heat-related issues during
training camp. Itís just an example of the determination of Mr. Huizenga and
Coach Saban to give our players, our coaches and our football operation every
opportunity to be successful.Ē