For the longest time, the Arizona Cardinals franchise was not viewed as one willing to spend the money it took to win on a consistent level.
Back then, the team often maintained that if it had its own stadium, the money would flow.
University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006, and since then, so has the organization’s wallet.
The most noticeable changes, of course, are on the field. Bigger contracts and a larger coaching staff are all signs of a team willing to spend in the name of winning.
But some of the difference is not in the public eye, like the redesigned and upgraded locker room.
“We’ve been in a three-phase, two-year renovation plan that started with the very visible new practice bubble, that’s not so new, it’s our third season in it this year,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “But we’ve expanded the weight room, the hydrotherapy room, the training room, the rehab area. We’ve built on a new commercial kitchen and dining hall.
“We’ve done a lot of changes around the training facility.”
Bidwill said as of Wednesday there is still some work to be done, but that when the team returns from training camp everything will be ready to go.
The reason for the changes, he said, was that the facility, which opened in 1990, simply needed the updates.
“There were some changes as the organization grew,” Bidwill said.
The NFL has changed over that time, and the Cardinals have worked to adapt to the era the sport is in.
While the upgrades will do nothing to hurt the impression the team’s players have of the franchise, they will also help in attracting new talent.
Because at this point, given their success on the field as well as what they’ve done off of it, there seems to be very little the Cardinals cannot offer a prospective free agent.
“The recruiting goes on and it’s not just the physical facilities,” Bidwill said. “But it’s the program you’ve got, it’s the location of the environment, of the community. The team support, the stadium — all those things are important.
“And when you look at what we’ve got, especially with this facility being finished, the stadium remains one of the best in the NFL, people really like what we’ve got going on here.”
Bidwill pointed out that the only players a team cannot recruit are draft choices.
“But all the people that don’t get drafted, we’ve got some players out here that we signed as undrafted free agents that we brought in on visits,” he explained. “They got a chance to get to know our people. We take them all out to great steak places around town — we’ve got some of the best steak places in the country here. And they get a chance to see the weather and everything else.
“We’re going to do this again, probably, this summer, where there’s a free agent that people haven’t thought about that maybe hasn’t signed on yet with a team and I’m sure Bruce and Steve and I are going to have a big steak up at Steak 44 with one of these guys, probably on the eve of training camp and get somebody signed like we have the last few years.”