"Just their presence alone has stimulated people. It's just good for the mental health of the community," said Cortland State football coach Dan MacNeill. "For our people, it's been fun. It has impacted the football program. We don't have normal use of our facilities. But an NFL franchise, no matter where you go, there's a heck of a following."
Seventeen of the 32 NFL teams last year held training camp at their year-round facilities, reflecting a trend toward cost-and-time efficiency in an era in which chemistry is built and conditioning established well before the two-a-day grind in August.
But the other 15 teams still take their show on the road, many of them to slower-paced cities and small colleges where their presence is a big deal — and a big financial boon.
Some people make a summer vacation out of watching their favorite team run drills and scrimmages. Day-trippers at least stop for a bite to eat on the way out of town.
The Cardinals have held camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff since 1988, and the school's Rural Policy Institute estimated it brought $7 million to the local economy last year, with an overall impact of $10 million. There were over 38,000 visitors, 81 percent of those from out of town, along with 122 jobs created by the camp.
In southern Minnesota, a 90-minute drive from the Twin Cities, Vikings training camp makes a $5 million impact on the region, said Anna Thill, president of the Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau. Last year, it drew 60,000 visitors from at least 30 states, and a few foreign countries.