A Stink-Free Locker Room

I was reading Peter King's NFL column online this morning and he had this interesting tidbit about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers new team facilities.

But I write this note because of what I noticed in the wood-paneled, spacious, Wi-Fi-enabled locker room. The room, on an 78-degree Tampa afternoon, was odor-free. I've been in NFL locker rooms for the last 25 years, and the one thing I've never smelled in any of them is nothing.

"Isn't it fantastic?'' said punter Josh Bidwell.

"You should have been at One Buc,'' safety Jermaine Phillips said. "There was enough smell in there to last a lifetime.''

I was at One Buc. And there were enough smells to last lifetime. But here, before the place was built, coaches and executives and some veterans were asked for wish lists of what they'd like in the new facility. A couple of people wondered, "Can we cut down the smell in the locker room?'' And so each of the 69 oversized lockers was outfitted with a complicated system to suck out odor and dry sweaty and wet equipment.

Each locker has a 30-inch-by-10-inch fine-mesh metal screen high in the stall, where the helmet and shoulder pads rest, and then a 30-inch-by-16-inch screen at torso level, to dry and suck out odors from practice gear and shoes. Other than it smelling nicer in the locker room, there's a bacteria and infection benefit in sucking out many of the germs in the joint.

The exhaust from the lockers is removed when the temperature rises in the room (usually when a mass of bodies occupies it), and the air-conditioning automatically clicks on. That prompts a mechanism in the system that forces the air out of each locker through spiral ducts into a series of galvanized metal pipes, sent through a network of pipes 44 feet to the rooftop, and expelled into the air through a fan on the outside of the building. The theory: If the odor-causing items -- shoes, pads, helmets, practice gear -- are near or next to an exhaust system designed to suck nearby air out of the locker through two big vents, there won't be any smell to linger.

What a country.