It’s usually pretty easy to tell when the NFL season is about to begin. Especially here in Dallas, talk around the water cooler reveals just how much die-hard football fans anticipate those first games.

For me, though, no opening day is quite like the one in 2006. Just after New Year’s Day of that year, we got a call from Jeff Howard, Senior Executive of Engineering and Broadcast Technology at NFL Films. We had worked with Jeff for many years, in particular having designed their 200,000-square-foot New Jersey headquarters facility some seven years earlier. Jeff has said, “For the past 25-plus years, when a new project surfaces, RBDG is our first call.”

Well, he was true to his word. That January phone call was prompted by a decision to dramatically expand their new NFL Network facility in Culver City, California. Jeff explained that they needed to create a 10,000-square-foot sound stage for their primary Network set, along with 25,000 square feet of new production facilities.

“Oh, and by the way,” he said, “everything has to be up and running for the start of the season.”

That gave us less than eight months, which under normal circumstances would be just enough time to design that kind of facility. Or, with a great deal of luck, nearly enough time to build it. But certainly not both simultaneously.

I can relate the many messy details of what happened over that eight months some other time, but suffice it to say there was no small measure of anxious calendar-watching as that particular season opener loomed.

But, in the end, it all came together and the first broadcasts from the new facility happened right on schedule. Seeing them was a great reminder: Even the most formidable challenges can be met when the right resources are directed at them, marshaled by professionals who all know how to do their jobs. In this case, it took everyone working in concert – the Network technical staff, the local architect, the contractor, the system integrators, and of course, the NFL Films leadership – to pull off something that probably should have been impossible.

These days, as another season opener approaches, I’m glad to see the NFL Network continuing to improve their broadcasts. But at the same time I’m thankful the stress of that one year’s opener is well behind us.

So, how ‘bout them Cowboys?




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