Hawks test out their new Renton practice facility
The Seahawks moved practice to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, their future headquarters, for a preview of what it will be like to work out of the Renton facility. Coach Mike Holmgren called the VMAC "fabulous."
Seattle Times staff reporters
RENTON — The new building won't win the Seahawks a game.
It took only a matter of minutes for the headquarters to win over the players, though.
"Everything about it was kind of fun and exciting," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Wednesday.
The relocation to Renton becomes official Aug. 18. Wednesday morning was more like a test drive as the Seahawks loaded a rosterful onto buses and drove south on I-405 to practice outside the new training facility on a field tucked between the freeway and Lake Washington.
It's more than just a field. It's four fields, actually. Each regulation size, all precisely manicured. Three are grass, the fourth an artificial turf that is indoors, covered by a structure that bears an uncanny resemblance to an airplane hangar.
The acreage is nearly double from the team's current headquarters in Kirkland. The building itself is three stories and covers five times as many square feet. There are whirlpools and cold tubs and a pool that includes a treadmill for rehabilitation work.
There's an auditorium with extra-large seats to accommodate the extra-large bodies, and every locker in the clubhouse has its own electrical outlet.
The Seahawks announced building plans in 2006, locating it on a parcel of land owned by Paul Allen. The team built the facility as an investment in the future. A down payment of sorts. It's up to the team to produce the dividends.
"Paul built this with intentions on us to build on what we've accomplished and keep going," linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "He put a lot of money into this, and we want to capitalize and make him proud. Make Seattle proud."
Holmgren said that the real results will show up in the team's ability to attract free agents and make the franchise even more of a desired destination.
"Letting players know that we will do everything possible for the players," Holmgren said, "to make it a great experience, all that kind of stuff. This building says that."
A seaplane flew nearby as the team practiced kickoff drills Wednesday morning. Construction workers in orange vests were finishing up landscaping work on the row of 50 or so trees bordering the fields.
The franchise invited 275 people to watch. When practice was over, Holmgren called the players to the middle of the field and reminded them that as nice as everything is, a state-of-the-art building doesn't count in the standings.
"Coach Holmgren kind of reeled us all back at the end in a real good way," Hasselbeck said. "He just said, 'Hey, this is a great facility. It's the best facility. You've earned it. You deserve it. But this facility is not going to win one game.'
"It's a good reminder."
Reggie Hodges is no stranger to roster cuts. He's been released by the Indianapolis Colts in each of the past two seasons before the regular season started.
But no cut hurt more than the one at midseason in 2005, when Hodges, a sixth-round pick who had won the St. Louis Rams' punting job as a rookie, was released after five games.
"When I got cut, I deserved to get cut because I wasn't performing," Hodges admitted. "Once you mature as a punter and you learn how to hit balls and your technique's right, then you move forward.
"I didn't hit good balls in games. I didn't know how to be a pro then, and that's changed now. I feel like I'm ready to go now."
Moving forward has brought Hodges to Seattle, where, as circumstances would have it, he's the only punter available right now. Ryan Plackemeier, the team's punter the past two seasons, is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. Hodges hadn't been expected to win the job away from Plackemeier, but right now, he's invaluable.
"Big, big leg," Plackemeier said. "I've been very impressed with him and I think everyone else has, and we'll see what happens."
Hodges has punted well in practice and earned praise from Holmgren after the team's Saturday scrimmage at Qwest Field.
"Plackemeier gets hurt, and we're very concerned about that whole situation," Holmgren said, "but Hodges punted the ball very well and he's been very consistent in camp, so we'll see. Those will be tough calls at the end."
• DE Patrick Kerney, who appears in TV commercials for Under Armour apparel saying the words "Click, clack," was click-clacking around the Renton facility wearing a boot over his lower left leg. Wednesday, he said, was the last day he'd be in the boot, but he won't play in Friday's exhibition game at Minnesota. Holmgren said he expects Kerney back to practicing next week.
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