WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — At 3:54 p.m. Wednesday afternoon the New Orleans Saints’ chartered flight touched the ground at the Greenbrier Valley Airport, and Greenbrier County officially became “Who Dat?” Country.
Football fans young and old — many of them in Saints jerseys or t-shirts — peeked through the wire fences to try to get a glimpse of the professional athletes, while others lined the streets of Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs to catch a glimpse of the caravan of six chartered buses and cars containing Saints owner Tom Benson and Greenbrier owner Jim Justice. The group was on its way to The Greenbrier, which will be the Saints’ home away from home for the next three weeks as they begin summer training camp at the new $30 million AdvoCare Sports Performance Center on The Greenbrier property.
“It’s kind of reminiscent to a long time ago when the Saints had training camp in Lacrosse, Wis.,” said Saints.com senior writer John Deshazier, who was standing in front of City Hall in White Sulphur Springs filming the caravan. “It’s a small town embracing an NFL team that comes in. It’s the first time it’s happened here, and it’s a big deal. I can understand why. It’s a big deal in New Orleans, and we see them all the time. I can’t imagine how big a deal it is here.”
Standing just a few feet away from Deshazier and other Saints.com employees was White Sulphur Springs mayor Lloyd Haynes, proudly wearing a black and gold Saints shirt and smiling from ear-to-ear as he watched members of the White Sulphur Springs Falcons youth football team wave frantically at their heroes on the buses.
“It means a great deal to White Sulphur,” he said. “It sort of puts White Sulphur on the map, Greenbrier County on the map and the state of West Virginia on the map. It’s the first time any large sports event such as this has ever happened in our area, and it is something that will bring attention to our area. The fact that The Greenbrier was able to bring this thing here to the little town of White Sulphur Springs was a big deal for us…