Wednesday, July 23, 2008

By Brett Grassmuck
Staff Writer

It’s that time of year again, the time when each NFL team comes together, throws on their pads and starts preparing for the upcoming NFL season.

Training camp is upon us, and this year’s Rams camp will leave the comforts of home for the Lake Michigan-side campus of Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., just north of Milwaukee.

But how exactly do you move an NFL franchise?

The short answer is with multiple 18-wheelers and a couple weeks worth of work, and that’s where the A-Mrazek moving company and president David Sabada step in.

“Being involved in it is really exciting,” Sabada said. “We know that our role is important. We know that we’re responsible to make sure that everything gets (to Mequon) on time so that everyone can concentrate on the job at hand, and that job is preparing for the season.”

Moving a franchise is nothing new for Sabada and A-Mrazek, as they were in charge of the Rams moves to and from Macomb, Ill., the previous away-from-home site of Rams training camp. A-Mrazek is also in charge of getting the St. Louis Cardinals to spring training each year.

“It’s unique, but I wouldn’t say it’s new for us,” Sabada said.

When an NFL team moves, it basically has to take everything but the brick and mortar of its training facility with it. Video equipment, training equipment, field equipment and weight and locker room equipment all has to be packed and transported from the facility to the training camp site.

Making a move on that large of a scale essentially begins months before even a playbook is packaged up when each department within the Russell Training Center lays out a plan detailing exactly what needs to be moved, where it is to go when it gets there and when it needs to be there.

Once the plan is in place, it’s up to A-Mrazek to make it happen. To move all the Rams equipment from St. Louis to Mequon, it takes six 18-wheelers, weighing between 25,000 and 27,000 pounds apiece, totaling more than 150,000 pounds of equipment. Sabada said the locker room equipment alone weighs nearly 27,000 pounds.

“We send up six truck loads, and as you can imagine, that’s a huge project,” Sabada said. “We want to have it there safely, we want to have it intact and we want to have it there on time.”

Three of the trucks, carrying mostly video, training and weight room equipment, make the trek to Mequon a week before camp starts. The last three, full of locker room, field equipment and the coaches playbooks and computers, head up just a couple days before camp.

Once the equipment gets to camp, A-Mrazek goes to work putting each piece where it belongs.

“As you can imagine, this is like putting together a giant puzzle,” Sabada said. “So, we organize it by what building it goes into, what floor and what office or meeting room or dorm room it goes to once it’s on that floor. Everything is delivered up here and put in its proper location.”

Once the equipment is unpacked and where it needs to go, Sabada and A-Mrazek can take a break, but not for long. Just a week and a half after the initial move, they’ll pack a truck for the Rams trip to Nashville, Tenn., and back to Mequon after the first preseason game against the Titans.

Then it’s time to break camp and take everything back where it belongs. But moving camp back to St. Louis is more critical than making the move from the Gateway City.

“When they move up (to Mequon), it’s kind of organized chaos,” Sabada said. “When they move back home, it’s just chaos. The delicate part of that is, now timing really becomes a sensitive issue, because the team will practice (at Concordia) then head back to St. Louis and practice there. That takes an enormous amount of timing.”

The last of the trucks have left the Russell Training Center for Mequon and the team will be training-camp bound Thursday afternoon, but by that time, Sabada’s job will be done for the time being.

“We’re really excited to be a part of this,” Sabada said. “Our guys feel like they’re part of the team when they get involved in this. Everybody in our company gets involved in this project. The summer is the busiest time of the year for us, and I’m really proud of the organization that our team has done.”