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Bears reveal major Halas Hall upgrades

From a larger locker room to hydrotherapy pools to a state-of-the-art draft room, more lounges, a rooftop garden to grow their own herbs and even a barber shop, the Bears thought of everything.

The players’ entrance to Halas Hall is a corridor with walls adorned with the numbers and names of the 14 players who have had their jersey retired. It’s part of a 162,500-square-foot expansion of Halas Hall that the team unveiled to the media on Thursday morning in Lake Forest.
Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

The Bears’ newest Halas Hall expansion is an apt illustration of just how far the franchise has come under McCaskey ownership. One of the last NFL teams to join the 20th century in terms of facilities is now leading the way into the 21st.

An impressive 162,500-square-foot expansion of football operations facilities is in some cases beyond state-of-the-art. The Bears have increased the size of their locker room, weight room, draft room, cafeteria and sports medicine facilities. They’ve added amenities like a barber shop, a sauna and a steam room. And they’ve included the latest technological advancements in virtually every area.

The Bears gave the media a tour of the expansion Thursday morning, and it looks like they thought of everything — more lounge areas, more conference rooms, two enclosed patios, a learning center for staff training. The Bears even installed a 4,200-square-foot rooftop garden area, where they will grow their own herbs.

Safety Eddie Jackson gave it the ultimate compliment: “I feel like they’re giving Alabama a run for their money.”

Among the highlights:

• The players’ entrance down a corridor with the names and uniform numbers of the 14 retired jerseys on each wall.

• A 3,250-square-foot players lounge.

• An expanded cafeteria (more than double the previous size) that includes a hot-food station where everything but the bread is made on site, plus a coffee bar, smoothie/juice bar, soup-and-salad bar and dessert bar, among other amenities.

• The new locker room is 1,750 square feet larger and can comfortably accommodate all 90 players on the preseason roster.

• The weight room was increased in size by 2,000 square feet.

• The sports medicine space is four times larger than the previous facility and includes two hydrotherapy pools, a float pod, a sauna and a steam room.

The Bears did everything first-class, but along with the luxury, they added advancements and amenities that coach Matt Nagy believes create an environment that has a direct impact on winning.

“It’s not fluff,” Nagy said. “This is all stuff that helps make our coaches better. It helps make our players better, because it’s new. There’s a lot of reasons behind what we’re doing. More than anything, I think all of us want to appreciate coming to work. And if you don’t — or if your environment is just a little bit off, it can sometimes damper where you’re at no matter what you’re doing. When you walk through here, if you’re in a bad mood, you’re not really that human.”

And in this day and age, facilities are everything — a virtual statement of who you are and how much you want to win.

“I think what we’re starting to realize now is in free agency, you end up having some guys that are comparing our facility to what they just came from or what they’re looking at currently and it helps put them over the top,” Nagy told reporters Tuesday. “Y’all will see that [at the tour of the expansion]. You’ll be blown away. I’ve talked to some people that have been in a lot of different facilities in the NFL and they’re talking about this being the best one.”

Jackson, who made the All-Pro team last year, confirmed the motivating impact first-rate facilities have on players.

“It just makes you want to come in here,” Jackson said. “It lifts you up when you walk into a place like this and see all the things they invest into us as players for us to perform well. I feel like we owe that in return to them — to come out here and practice hard and [on] game days, go hard.”