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Justice and New Orleans Saints both enter training camp with big expectations

Training camp possibly $20 million in media exposure, $10 million in economic impact

By Don Smith
West Virginia Press Association

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Players report to the New Orleans Saints 2014 Training Camp at The Greenbrier on Thursday for a day of physicals, meetings and strength and conditioning tests before starting 20 days of practice that are free and accessible to the fans.
Based on the forecasts, the Saints, who made the playoffs in 2013, can expect a 40 percent chance of rain, temperatures in the low 80s, fans in the tens of thousands and camp followers in the millions. In fact, judging from the amount of media, team personnel and activity at the new practice facility, the Saints marched into the resort days ago, well ahead of Thursday’s opening.

Cutline: The New Orleans Saints open their 2014 training camp at The Greenbrier’s new practice facility and AdvoCare Sports Performance Center. The practice facility includes three practice fields (two natural turf and one synthetic grass), along with a 55,000-square-foot multi-purpose building equipped with meeting rooms, weight rooms, locker rooms, training and physical therapy accommodations, and kitchen and dining facilities. Photo provide by The Greenbrier.
Cutline:
The New Orleans Saints open their 2014 training camp at The Greenbrier’s new practice facility and AdvoCare Sports Performance Center. The practice facility includes three practice fields (two natural turf and one synthetic grass), along with a 55,000-square-foot multi-purpose building equipped with meeting rooms, weight rooms, locker rooms, training and physical therapy accommodations, and kitchen and dining facilities. Photo provide by The Greenbrier.

Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier and the man responsible for bringing the Saints to West Virginia, said Monday that the fan interest and exposure from the NFL goes beyond his wildest expectations and the benefits for West Virginia could be far greater than first thought. Justice noted that a recent media report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch said 2.95 billion people around the globe saw some piece of what went on at the Washington Redskins’ NFL camp in Richmond, Va.

An article by Michael Phillips in the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that in its first year as the training camp for the Washington Redskins, the Richmond area received $27.8 million in media coverage, according to the team’s media monitoring service.  The report also noted “2.95 billion unique visitors viewed online/print coverage of the 2013 Bon Secours-Richmond Training Camp in July and August.”

The article reported that the Bon Secours-Richmond training center saw weekday crowds of about 6,000 people and was stretched to the limit on weekends, when about three times as many people tried to watch the workouts. The biggest practice was fan appreciation day, which attracted a team-reported 25,222 fans to the facility.

As the Saints’ new location — with daily media coverage across the country and constant Internet coverage available around the world — Justice said West Virginia would be in the spotlight for nearly a month.  While at The Greenbrier, the Saints will hold a total of 20 practices, including a scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 2. All training camp workouts scheduled at The Greenbrier will be open to fans and media.

“The whole concept of the exposure from an NFL team being in West Virginia is unbelievable,” Justice said, “If we can have that level exposure to our state … of what this can do and mean for our state … it’s just huge.”

Justice couldn’t put a dollar value on that amount of exposure but said it’s a chance for people all over the world to get a good impression of West Virginia.

“There are people all over this place right now. It caught me off guard.” Justice said on Monday, three days before the official start of camp.  “We know fans will be pouring in front around the country for the camp and following it around the world. This is huge.”

While the value of the media exposure might be hard to measure, there are economic impact studies that document the impact of an NFL training camp. An economic impact report by The Center for Sport Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University for the City of Richmond estimates that the Washington Redskins training camp is thought to have had a total economic impact of $10.5 million on the area in terms of money spent on accommodations, food and beverages, gasoline, groceries, entertainment and other items.

In addition to the economic benefit, Justice said West Virginians have an excellent opportunity to enjoy the NFL experience in the Mountain State. He’s happy that state residents can attend a NFL practice at no charge. See the practice schedule at http://www.greenbrier.com/Activities/New-Orleans-Saints.aspx.

According the New Orleans Saints release, for fans wishing to attend workouts, admission is free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is limited bleacher seating available, but there is no reserved seating. Additional seating on the berm is available.

Parking for spectators is free and located at the State Fair of West Virginia Fairgrounds, approximately 10 minutes from The Greenbrier, where spectators will pass a security check and board on-site charter buses for the short ride to the practice facility.

The on-site charter buses run from 7 a.m. until after practice. Personal vehicles, walk-ins, and private buses/motor coaches are not permitted at the practice facility. Transportation tickets are required and there is a fee of $5 for adults and $2 for child, payable by cash or credit card.  Prohibited items include purses larger than a clutch bag; coolers; briefcases; backpacks; fanny packs; cinch bags; non-approved seat cushions; luggage or bags of any kind; computer bags; camera bags; video cameras; weapons; knives; pepper spray; food or drink.

Justice said Saturday is a special day at the facility.  A “Picnic with the Saints” starts at 3:30 p.m. and allows fans to celebrate with the players and coaches. The picnic celebration includes meet & greets, autograph and photograph opportunities, live entertainment and facility tours.

The grand opening ceremony at the front entrance of the training facility starts at 3:30 p.m., with Justice, Richard Wright, CEO of AdvoCare; and state political leaders. From 4:30 p.m. util 5:15 p.m., guests can tour the AdvoCare Sports Performance Center. The practice facility includes three practice fields on property at the resort (two natural turf and one synthetic grass), along with a 55,000-square-foot multi-purpose building equipped with meeting rooms, weight rooms, locker rooms, training and physical therapy accommodations, and kitchen and dining facilities.

The picnic with players can coaches is from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Wristbands for the picnic are limited and $10. They are available at greenbrier.com/picnic. Guests who purchase in advance online should bring their checkout receipt and the credit card that was used to place the order to Will Call (located near the bus drop-off) to receive their wristbands. Wristbands will also be available for purchase at the merchandise tent at the practice facility on Friday and Saturday.

As Justice noted, social media plays a large role at training camp.  Media and fan alerts, updates and schedule changes will be made daily on www.neworleanssaints.com once training camp starts or by clicking on to Twitter (@Saints) or Facebook (facebook.com/neworleanssaints). Practices at The Greenbrier may be cancelled or closed to the public in the event of inclement weather.

For fans wanting to stay overnight, The Greenbrier has limited availability throughout the Saints training camp. Call reservations for rates and availability at (855) 851-9901 (option 4).

Saints officials said Saints players sign autographs for fans after each practice, but that autographs are not guaranteed. Fans are also welcome to take photos of the players during training camp. However, video is prohibited. Saints staff may request at any time that fans cease using those devices.

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