New Orleans Saints staff looks forward to hosting training camp

Posted by Nakia Hogan, The Times-Picayune July 28, 2009 9:23PM

For their three-day minicamp last month at their Metairie headquarters, the Saints had an overflow, shoulder-to-shoulder crowd on hand to watch practices. Some fans even were left to peer in from outside the gate just to get a glimpse of the Black and Gold.

Getting to see the team for the next month during training camp might not be as much of a strain.

In preparation for Friday’s start of training camp, which will be held at the team’s facility for the first time since 2005, the Saints have added more seating and standing areas to accommodate larger crowds.

Saints administrative director Jay Romig, who also serves as training camp manager, said about 3,000 fans will be able to sit comfortably (August heat not withstanding) to watch practices, a number that more than doubled the capacity for minicamps. Meanwhile, hundreds more can be added to the standing-room-only areas.

To have room for the larger crowds, the Saints and Jefferson Parish brought in more temporary bleachers, adding larger sections of stands along the Airline Drive sideline and placing the smaller bleachers along Elise Street end zone.

Romig also said that extra concession and memorabilia kiosks are being added.

“This came right from (Saints owner) Mr. (Tom) Benson,” Romig said. “He wanted to make sure everybody was accommodated. We were so excited about the crowds we got at the minicamp, he wanted to make sure we could accommodate the fans.

“We just kind of moved some bleachers. We didn’t have to reconfigure anything. We just kind of redistributed some areas that were not used before. Every available space we have is going to be used, either by practice or by the fans.”

One other change the team is making from the last time it hosted training camp in Metairie is the team will not hold meetings at its practice facility. Instead the meetings will take place at the hotel where the players are staying during training camp.

Other than that, Romig said he expects a seamless transition.

“This kind of puts a bigger burden on the marketing and administrative sides because of the space restrictions we have,” Romig said. “But on the football side, it’s probably a relief to the trainers and the equipment people who get to operate out of their own space that they operate everyday.”

This will mark only the fourth time the Saints have held training camp at their permanent facility. The team held training camp at the Metairie facility from 2003-2005.

The Saints moved camp to Jackson, Miss., from 2006-2008, before returning this year to Metairie, where 21 of the 29 practices scheduled at the Airline Drive facility will be open to the public, weather permitting.

“We’ve had training camps here before, and it worked well for us,” Romig said. “Before Katrina we had training camps here, and we sort of had the same plan, but we added additional bleachers. We hope it’s filled up everyday to the max. That would be exciting for the players and the fans and everybody in the organization.”

Nakia Hogan can be reached at nhogan@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405.

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