With a metropolitan population of just more than 1 million people and a city population of fewer than 300,000, Buffalo, New York, is second only to Green Bay, Wisconsin, as the smallest market represented in the National Football League.
Nevertheless, the Buffalo Bills may have one of the most-impressive and advanced training facilities in the league in the ADPRO Sports Training Center in Orchard Park, New York.
The lead design firm for the recent expansion and renovation of the Sports Training Center was the world-renowned Kansas City, Missouri, firm Populous. Founded a decade ago, the firm specializes in sports architecture and event design and has won more than 250 global design awards for its work in 34 countries.
Among the facilities Populous has designed are Daily’s Place, the training facility and amphitheater for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as training facilities for the football programs at Purdue University, University of Colorado, University of Missouri and Oklahoma University.
“Our work on the Orchard Park campus began back in 2011, when we sat down with Bills personnel at all levels of the organization—including ownership, administrative, coaches and operational staff—to create a vision for the future of the site,” said Chris Jensen, Populous’ architect and associate principal. “Through those initial sessions, a master list of goals and priorities that provided a road map for the work was completed.”
A state-of-the-art facility
The first phase of the ADPRO Sports Training Center renovation began in the summer of 2015. It included rebranding as well as renovations to the field house lobby, along with creating the Founders Plaza. The 2,300-square-foot fieldhouse lobby was also updated to match the fieldhouse and adjacent stadium. The iconic exterior component of this phase featured the creation of a garden plaza used to commemorate Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the founding owner of the Bills.
The core and shell for the scouting room were completed during the 2015 football season, coordinated around the players’ schedule. Finishes were completed after the season and lobby work began shortly thereafter. The state-of-the art scouting space boasts a customizable television wall and various high-tech tools designed to enhance game planning. In addition to the lobby, renovations to the team meeting rooms were completed to ensure branding consistency throughout.
“Populous utilized a number of technical platforms that are specific to each facet of that design discipline,” Jensen said. “We relied heavily on 3D visualization tools to quickly and accurately identify complex design decisions. The 3D renderings and walkthroughs allowed the design team to provide the Bills with exactly what they wanted while also being able to describe to the construction manager and contractors how each system needed to be coordinated and implemented. All of which helped expedite the delivery of the best-in-class facility.”
Jensen also said that Populous was not only involved with the architecture and interior design, but also took the lead on developing the branding and wayfinding throughout the space as well as the landscaping and site design.
The design team began work in early July 2018, while demolition and construction commenced in the fall, ahead of Buffalo’s grueling winter. The project was completed on April 1, in preparation for the NFL Draft later that month. Site work was completed prior to the preseason in early August. In all, Populous had more than 20 designers, planners, architects and staff that contributed to the project.
Sprinkled with design gems
There are a multitude of hidden—and not so hidden—design gems in the facility.
One of Jensen’s favorite features is the fuel and hydration bar within the weight room. It provides a common interaction space between the strength and conditioning spaces, the recovery, training and sports science spaces and the existing indoor playing field. The fuel and hydration bar provides the players an area to recharge after working out while allowing the coaching staff to promote player care and training regiments.
Another of Jensen’s favorites is the recovery lounge, which has a variety of treatment spaces, such as pre- and post-workout massage rooms, light and sleep therapy rooms and a relaxation room where players use a number of recovery devices.
Thanks to Populous’ state-of-the-art design and architecture work, the Buffalo Bills have a first-class practice facility. And, with the Bills having a great season so far this year (at the time of this writing, the team boasts a 8-3 record, good for second place in the NFL’s AFC East division) it looks as though Populous’ great work is paying off.