Florida State football players return to the practice field on Monday as preseason camp opens. And when they get back to work, they will enjoy a remodeled, state-of-the art locker room and lounge areas.
The new lockers feature iPads for each player, allowing them to watch game film, communicate with coaches and check email. Surrounding them will be large statues of FSU players that have had their numbers retired.
The not-so-subtle message to the current Seminoles: Respect FSU's rich football history, but also be motivated to succeed. One sign in the locker room: "YOU MAKE THE HELMET. THE HELMET DOES NOT MAKE YOU."
"Florida State has as much history as anybody in America," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher. "You see the rings, you see the national championships, the Heisman trophies, the great players in the NFL and the great men we have developed. And it sends a message to your players that we are demanding from you but we are demanding from everyone. Excellence is expected, and being elite is just the way of Florida State."
There is also a new players' lounge area just outside the locker room where food and drinks will be available before and after practice.
Fisher and his staff also now have renovated offices, and walls in entry areas and corridors leading to the coaches' offices are lined with large images of FSU greats past and present, a Heisman Trophy display, and jerseys of former Seminoles now in the NFL.
While the locker room upgrades are the big prize for the players, the hallways are what will make for a slower, more enjoyable walk. Once the door opens into the entry area for the coaches' offices, there is a wall with a large image of Kelvin Benjamin's touchdown reception in the final moments of the BCS National Championship Game that sealed a 34-31 win over Auburn. And to the left of that will be a display of FSU's three crystal footballs from the 1993, '99 and '13 seasons.
A Heisman wall was also established to honor FSU's three Heisman quarterbacks—Charlie Ward (1993), Chris Weinke (2000) and Jameis Winston (2013).
One wall is devoted to "Seminole History" and features a timeline of the program along with a large image of coaching legend Bobby Bowden touting his two national championships and accomplishments from 1976-2009.
FSU also used hallway wall space to frame individual NFL jerseys of the 50 former Seminoles that are currently in the NFL. And large numerals are set in glass frames that showcase the number of FSU's consensus All-Americans (32), first-round NFL picks (40), ACC titles (14), national championships (3) and undefeated seasons (3).
FSU director of football operations Mark Robinson said that some concepts were taken from what other college programs and pro teams have done. But he feels that FSU has some unique features, such as the statues in the locker room for retired players, the Heisman wall and a "Florida State Gameday" spot, which mimics the look of an ESPN "GameDay" set, with an anchor desk in front and a large image of a previous "GameDay" in Tallahassee behind it. The idea is to give FSU fans a chance to make this a stop on Saturdays and to have their pictures taken.
While media were given a tour of the renovations on Wednesday afternoon, construction crews were busy completing various projects. But the goal is to have all of the work done by Saturday night, just in time for when players report on Sunday.
Seminole Boosters, Inc., provided the funding for the locker room and upgrades to coaches' offices. The cost is expected to be between $5 million and $6 million, said Jerry Kutz, senior vice president of Seminole Boosters.
A number of FSU football players will also move into a new residence hall on Sunday. Champions Hall was built by the Seminole Boosters and will have space for both football players and traditional students. Two players will share two-bedroom apartments at the complex, which is a short walk to Doak Campbell Stadium.
FSU officials and the Seminole Boosters have been working together to build a variety of projects over the past few years, notably the construction of an indoor practice facility that was completed in August 2013. But on Wednesday, they jointly announced an eight-year, $250 million Champions Campaign to fund a variety of projects. The campaign began quietly in July 2010, and about half of the $250 million has already been raised, said Andy Miller, president and CEO of Seminole Boosters.
At the top of the list: improvements to Doak Campbell Stadium; the construction of a "Champions Club" that features premium indoor-outdoor seating not just on game days but also on game weekends; and upgrades at the Donald L. Tucker Center, where the men's and women's basketball teams will play.
Kutz said the goal of the "Champions Club" project is to be the engine that drives revenue for future upgrades to Doak Campbell Stadium. The Seminole Booster hopes to begin the "Champions Club" project after the 2015 season and be finished before the start of the 2016 season.
"Today we are going to set about making our aspirations a reality," said FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox.
Said Fisher: "I like being aggressive. I think that's what this is about. That's what this campaign is about. It sends a message that Florida State is not content with where we are at."
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter.
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