Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 00:03
The door could be open for Lafayette to host the Philadelphia Eagles’ summer training camp after the NFL franchise relocated this year’s camp to the City of Brotherly Love.
The annual preseason practices had been held at Lehigh University for the last 17 years, but will now be staged at both their NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field.
If they decide to move their training camp back to the fan-friendly confines of local colleges, Lafayette could be an option. They are within a half hour’s drive from the previous host college, Lehigh, and have spacious grass facilities with Metzgar Field.
Athletic Director Bruce McCutcheon said that the Eagles are aware of Lafayette’s presence on the local scene and have even inspected Lafayette before.
“They were here a few years ago,” he said. “They did a facility assessment both here on campus and on the Metzgar Athletic Campus. So they know about us, they know about our facilities.”
The 12-year head of the athletic department added that Lafayette would like to be a player if the Eagles decided to look for a new home.
“If anybody wanted to have that conversation, we’d have that conversation,” McCutcheon said.
President-elect Alison Byerly said via email that she “had not heard that the Eagles were looking for a different training facility, and [has] not been involved in any conversations.”
McCutcheon acknowledged that changes would have to be made in order for that conversation to become a mere possibility.
“We would definitely need additional and upgraded grass facilities,” he said. “There would have to be significant changes in that regard, and I don’t know that that would be feasible.”
The financial strain on upgrading the grass facilities could be a reason it wouldn’t work out.
“The expense involved for grass fields just for four weeks of a professional football camp would [be considerable],” he said. “If they were willing to help, that’d be part of the discussions as well.”
“It also depends on the franchise,” he added. “Some franchises really pour a lot of resources into the location, I know that was not the case with the Eagles at Lehigh. What they needed, they brought along with them, but they didn’t invest a whole lot in the infrastructure at Lehigh.”
Easton mayor Sal Panto Jr. could not be reached for comment on whether or not the city of Easton would help fund the renovations necessary. There is a significant financial impact for the community that hosts an NFL Training Camp. A 2010 study of the economic impact of the Arizona Cardinals Training Camp in Arizona’s Coconino County revealed that the Cards bring in $2,116,800 in Total Value.
Philadelphia’s move continues a recent trend among NFL teams, who may now have the market stability to be able to forego the popular fan interaction in exchange for more state-of-the-art facilities. They are now the 21st NFL team to move practices in-house.
McCutcheon is not surprised by the move.
“They’re just following a trend of most other NFL franchises,” he said. “Frankly, it makes sense. That’s where all their facilities are, all the amenities, all the technical stuff they have now for tape-viewing and rehab and that kind of stuff. They don’t have to move that stuff around.
According to the Eagles’ press release, it’s the first time the franchise has held training camp in Philadelphia since 1943, when they held sessions at St. Joseph’s University. The NovaCare Complex is located in the south side of Philadelphia.
The motivation for the move is cited as a desire for the facilities that the NovaCare Complex provides. The equipment listed by the press release includes a hydrotherapy pool, MRI machine, state of the art weight rooms, an indoor practice room, and video and computer equipment.
But there has been a public backlash from those who believe that the move will cause a rift between the players and the fans.
“I don’t really like that idea,” Scott Kramer told Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV. “Lehigh’s been a great tradition, the Lehigh Valley’s been important fans of the Eagles.”
But Eagles president Don Smolenski is adamant that the team would not have moved their training camp if they couldn’t guarantee fan interaction.
“We would not have made the decision to leave Lehigh University if we could not have had a number of free practices open to all the public at Lincoln Financial Field,” he told PhiladelphiaEagles.com.
For now, the Eagles landing in Easton is something of a pipe dream. But with several interested parties in the Lafayette community, it cannot be ruled out for the future.