PHOENIX — When the Bears return to Halas Hall from the NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore, chairman George McCaskey is moving into coach Matt Nagy’s office.
It’s all part of the Bears’ massive expansion of their home facility.
Will McCaskey keep Nagy’s floor-to-ceiling dry-erase board that the reigning NFL Coach of the Year used to brainstorm plays?
“They’re taking out that whole wall,” McCaskey said. ‘They want more natural light to come in, so they’re making that a glass wall.
“So the famous whiteboard, at that location anyways, is going to be retired. But there are white boards all over the expansion.”
And that’s exciting. Nagy is putting his own touches on general manager Ryan Pace’s original plan for modernizing Halas Hall.
The project, which will add a 162,500-square-foot building to the property, is on schedule to be completed by August. But there already are new offices for members of the Bears’ brass to move into. Here’s what excites them the most about their new home:
Coach Matt Nagy
Nagy’s excitement starts in the bathroom.
“I got a sweet shower,” he said with a smile. “It’s huge.”
As great as that shower will be, though, Nagy is pleased that his players will no longer have to walk or drive to the separate Walter Payton Center for workouts. The Bears’ weight room is being expanded by 2,000-square feet.
“Everything is right there,” Nagy said. “When you’re setting the schedule, that saves five to 10 minutes.”
The Bears will have a 13,000- square-foot indoor turf field that’s directly outside of their position meeting rooms. Better yet, that field has a 133-by-26-foot video projection wall next to it. Using virtual reality, players will be able to see their opponents in life-size form.
“We can simulate a blitz or whatever we want,” Nagy said. “It’s amazing what they’ve done.”
Nagy also will expand his use of displaying motivational messages throughout the new building. There will be much more than “Be You.” Position coaches will be able to share their own in their respective meeting rooms, too.
“There’s some pretty neat sayings and pictures in their rooms of the history of the positions,” Nagy said. “It’s pretty neat.”
The history buff in Nagy had a strong say in the expansion’s inside aesthetics.
“I love the [Bears’] stripes,” he said. “I love the stripes that we have. I want stripes everywhere.”
General manager Ryan Pace
Pace does have one concern. He hopes there isn’t a power outage during the draft next month. He’ll be using his new digital draft board for the first time.
“The draft room is state of the art,” Pace said. “There’s a lot of things coming online that are really impressive. It makes you a little nervous because you go into the draft room, and there’s a lot of technology in there with digital boards. And here we are a month from the draft.”
Pace, though, views his expansion of Halas Hall as “a game-changer.”
“It takes your breath away,” he said.
The flow of the Bears’ new facility was very important to him. He wants everything arranged so that players don’t want to leave.
“It’s really nice, but what makes our team better?” Pace said. “When you think about the training room and the weight room and the hydra-works, the locker room, the recovery room, it’s going to maximize our players.”
President/CEO Ted Phillips
Phillips’ only regret is that he wasn’t able to travel with Pace and other staff members when they toured facilities around the country — from the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs to Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center — for inspiration.
“It’s really focused on the football operations,” Phillips said. “It’s going to be as good as any facility in the league.”
Phillips highlighted the same virtual-reality wall as Nagy did.
“Our guys are looking hard at how to make that work so that it’s user friendly so that the coaches want to utilize it,” he said. “That’s going to be a huge advantage.”
Phillips also said that players should be excited about their new lounge.
“In the past, we just kind shoehorned it in here and there,” Phillips said. “It’s going to be the kind of environment where the players I don’t think are going to want to leave.
“That’s part of it. We want them to be here and feel good about it — to feel that ownership and management is committed to giving them the best workplace experience we can.”
The expansion affects all departments, too. Space once reserved for coaches now belongs to other departments.
Over the last five years, Phillips said the Bears have added an average of seven new employees in various capacities.
“We’re always talking about we need to collaborate more inter-departmentally,” he said. “There will be a new work-flow design.”
Chairman George McCaskey
When the Bears hired Nagy, McCaskey told him that his message to his players and staff about the renovation would be important. They would be inconvenienced.
“There was going to be noise, dust and disruption from the construction,” McCaskey said. “He said, ‘You see that building coming up to the north of us? That’s just like our team. We’re building that team. We’re putting the foundation in place.’ ”
When the building is finished, Nagy’s message will be important, too.
But McCaskey isn’t worried. Nagy already has something in mind.
“Everything is brand new,” Nagy said. “We just got to make sure now that they don’t get spoiled. We’ll make sure they don’t get too spoiled.”