JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It'll be hard to get away from the Jacksonville connection in Super Bowl on Sunday. Champ Bailey, Tony Carter, Cliff Avril, Jack Del Rio and Jeremy Mincey will all be at the game and on the sidelines a local company will have Jacksonville well represented. Athletic Recovery Zone was hired by the NFL to provide heating benches for the game at MetLife Stadium and they've spent the better part of the last three weeks installing them in New Jersey.
You've seen these benches at Jaguars games and at the TPC Stadium course during The Players. In 2009, Jaguars Trainer Mike Ryan and Del Rio went to ARZ to see if they could look for a way to cool down players in the Florida heat. After working on the concept, this Jacksonville based company came up with something they thought was a little different solution to a common problem.
"The unique way we circulate the air through our machines give us the tremendous temperature difference. In order to get that kind of temperature difference that we achieve with our machines you'd need a machine three or four times the size of what we have in our cabinet, said Athletic Recovery Zone CEO Brian Cothren. Cothren and fellow ARZ developers have been in the air conditioning business in Jacksonville for a while. Now their business is going nationwide.
"We've proven ourselves in extreme cold climates at Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa State, Texas and A&M so they (they NFL) called and said they wanted us to do the Super Bowl."
Starting in 2009, ARZ was asked by Jaguars athletic trainer Mike Ryan and then Head Coach Jack Del Rio to see if they could come up with a way to cool down some of the players they had "coming down from up north." ARZ went to work on the project and installed their ARZ benches for the Jaguars in 2010. You can now see them in the south end zone cool zone for fans as well as at some spectator spots during The Players at the TPC Stadium Course.
"We have different mechanisms to work in temperate climates, in extreme heat and in extreme cold," Cothren said from New Jersey. They'll provide 70 feet of benches on both sides of the stadium, following the "competitive equity" edict handed out by the NFL. Same stuff for both teams.
"Jeff Ireland (former Miami Dolphins GM) liked our product but didn't want to spend the money to install them on both sides of the stadium in Miami," Cothren explained. "So he asked for a "competitive equity exemption" from the league. They looked at our product and said ‘No way, this is too good,' and that's how we became associated with the league office. They asked us if we could make some benches for the Super Bowl and now we're here."
Just like any team, the Seattle Seahawks wanted to keep things the same and didn't want to deviate from their sideline seats used during the regular season and the playoffs. They wanted to bring them to MetLife. But when they went to the stadium and tested out the ARZ benches, they were all in.
ARZ is much different than just a "hot seat." It creates an "air curtain" around the person sitting on them, potentially lowering (or raising) their core temperature in a short period of time.
"It's like walking inside somewhere," General Sale Manager Earle Theus explained on Wednesday. "It's pretty amazing. That's why we're finding applications in sports, both cold and hot and in industry where people are working outside in extreme temperatures."
What's fun about this product is it's all a Jacksonville project. "Oh yeah, the inventors, the product, all from Jacksonville," said Theus, who graduated from Orange Park High and was once the Mayor of Orange Park. "The league asked us to see if we could make this happen and our guys went to work on it."
"Every bench on the sidelines at the Super Bowl will be ours," Cothren added. "They've even come up with some unique video boards to cover them with at halftime."
"Brian, are you nervous, excited, elated, any of those that hundreds of millions of people will see your product during the Super Bowl?" I asked.
"Sam, I've been too busy to be nervous. I'm sure the players are a lot more nervous than I am."
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