Bears to stay in Bourbonnais, Ill., 9 more years
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP)
The Chicago Bears announced a nine-year deal Monday to keep the team's training camp at Olivet Nazarene University, an hour's drive south of Chicago.
The Bears have been at the university in Bourbonnais since 2002. This season, the Bears have housed their weight room, indoor walk-throughs and personnel meetings at the campus' new Student Life Recreation Center. The school plans to update practice fields and renovate locker rooms and training facilities in coming years.
General manager Phil Emery said the facilities are ''second to none.'' He also discussed the benefits of going away for camp rather than staying at home.
''When I was with the Atlanta Falcons (as director of college scouting from 2004-08), we had camp at the (team's) facility,'' Emery said. ''I will tell you, this situation is optimal. We're able to get centrally located. I believe we get more fan influx. We get our players away to where they can kind of come together with their own unique family and team and establish their identity. And you can't underestimate the fan contact. This facility allows us to do that in a much bigger and better way than we could staying at home.''
About 100,000 fans visit Chicago Bears training camp every summer. Officials said the biggest crowd since 2002 was Sunday, when about 20,000 fans came to see camp. Camp lasts for three weeks. It has a children's area, team shop, concerts and autograph sessions.
''What a great touch point for the fans,'' Emery said. ''If anything that I have learned as a general manager, it's how important camp is for the fans to be able to reach out and actually kind of feel the players, see who they are, see how they react, have an interaction. I certainly have had that benefit.''