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Pegulas spending $18 million to get Bills 'best of NFL' weight room

PITTSFORD — Sean McDermott counts working out among his favorite hobbies.

The Buffalo Bills' coach will soon have a really nice place to do that.

Team owners Terry and Kim Pegula are funding a massive $18 million renovation of the weight room inside the ADPRO Sports Training Center, which Bills officials say will give the team the best such facility in the NFL.

"This is taking it from very good to really excellent. Top shelf," General Manager Brandon Beane told The Buffalo News. "It'll be the best of the best, to what I'm aware of around the league."

Construction on the project is in the early stages and has a scheduled end date of April 2019 — in time for the team's offseason conditioning program. Beane and McDermott conducted a top-to-bottom review of the Bills' facilities upon arriving last year. While they found the current weight room to be functional, Beane said if they were being "nitpicky," it could use some upgrades.

"That's what's great about them — they want to know," the GM said of the Pegulas. "They want to hear the ideas."

An internal committee was formed this spring with members of several departments, all of whom shared ideas on what the new facility should include. The committee studied a number of weight rooms for NFL teams and other professional sports organizations in the United States and overseas. Eric Ciano, the team's head strength and conditioning coach, played a key role in developing the final plan, which will result in a 25,000-square-foot space.

Rehabbing players will be able to use a section of turf instead of having to be on the sideline of the main practice field. (Image courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)

"Honestly, it came down to the Pegulas saying, 'We want best in class. We want the best facility in the NFL.' Their main reasoning was, 'What can we do to help our players succeed? We will go to all avenues to do that,' " Ciano said. "There's not many teams in this league that are doing the things we're going to do to help our players succeed on the field."

Calling it a "weight room" undersells all that the new facility will entail. Need an afternoon nap? There will be sleep pods available. Had a stressful day? There will be float tanks designed to melt that away. Rehabbing players will be able to use a section of turf instead of having to be on the sideline of the main practice field. Soaring, two-story windows will let in plenty of natural light, which Ciano said increases energy and improves a person's mood.

[Gallery: Here's what the Bills' $18 million weight room will look like]

Office space, a yoga studio and recovery rooms that specialists such as chiropractors or massage therapists can use to treat players are also part of the plan. Currently, massage tables are hidden behind curtains in the northwest corner of the fieldhouse. First-world problem, maybe, but in such a highly competitive league, every detail matters.

"This player might need this to help them, this player might need this, so we're trying to provide a variety because they all have different needs," Beane said. "A lot of it's mental. What makes you feel the best? What helps you prepare the best? Whether it's the quarterbacks, the kickers, the linemen, whoever it is, this gives us more versatility."

Architecture and design firm Populous drew up the blueprints for the new facility, while construction will be managed by Arc Building Partners. Populous designed the $7.6 million renovation of the locker room in 2014, nearly tripling its size, as well as a number of other upgrades to the fieldhouse.

An exterior rendering shows another angle of the Bills' planned $18 million expansion. (Image courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)

The investment in the weight room follows an $18 million investment in the offseason by ownership to upgrade the three club areas and digital signage at New Era Field.

A key part of the renovations, team officials say, is that will lead to a better flow of communication between the strength and conditioning staff and the team's performance science division, which records and analyzes performance, tracks nutrition and develops individualized plans for players to maximize production.

Current players have been peppering Ciano with questions about what the new weight room will include. The team hopes it will encourage players to stay in Western New York after the season to do their training.

"They know at the end of the day, that we're doing this for them, to help lengthen their careers, help keep them on the field, help decrease injuries," Ciano said. "I've been shocked here at camp how many of those guys have asked me questions. These guys are fired up about it."

It can also be a recruitment tool for new players next year when free agency begins.

"There's certain things we don't want to give up for a competitive advantage, but there's things that (in terms of) individualized player care, that we've already started," Beane said. "This is going to help us take another step in that area. How can we help … strengthen your skill set? This is what you do well, this is what you need to work on, and this is our plan, just for you."

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