WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — As offensive lineman Zach Strief conversed with fans Wednesday following the Saints final practice of their three-week stay at The Greenbrier’s new $30 million training facility, he didn’t hold back with his opinion of the place.
“If we stop coming here, I’m retiring,” he told a group of fans from Covington, Va. “I’m coming here every year, whether (the Saints) do or not.”
The 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive tackle out of Northwestern University likely won’t have to worry. Judging from comments from both sides, the relationship between the Saints and the Greenbrier County resort is likely to be a long one.
The contract signed between the two parties in March calls for three years of training camp at the facility, but Saints head coach Sean Payton said he sees no reason why it couldn’t become permanent.
“With the experience we’ve had and the way we’ve set the schedule, (the contract is) written for the next two years, but we’d like to be here a lot longer than just that,” said the coach, who’s entering his ninth season in New Orleans. “The setup is outstanding, and the ability to stay in an enclosed environment is good. The people here have been great, and I think everything about it has.
“When we start putting down notes for changes next year, it’s less than a page. There isn’t a whole lot.”
From the other side, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, who helped orchestrate the deal to bring the Saints to White Sulphur Springs and then pushed to get the facility — which includes the 50,000-square foot AdvoCare Sports Performance Center, two grass fields and one synthetic field — finished in only about three months, was equally pleased with the experience.
“It surpassed any and everything that we all thought it could be…