Cards expect big crowds in Flagstaff
by Bob McManaman - Jul. 11, 2009 11:26 AM
The Arizona Republic
Ramirez has been talking about the Arizona Cardinals and their upcoming training
camp at Northern Arizona University and he's seeing red.
"Now it's going to be packed with people who've never been here before. It's probably going to be a zoo. I always hoped the Cardinals would go to the Super Bowl, but now that they have, I'm almost wishing that they didn't."
What will the crowds be like when the defending NFC Champion Cardinals report to camp July 31 for the first of 23 practices during their three-week stay in Flagstaff?
The New England Patriots have been to four Super Bowls this decade, winning three times, and their summer attendance has spiked regularly. But team officials attribute that largely to the team having moved training camp from tiny Bryant College in Rhode Island to Gillette Stadium, which is closer to the general fan base and offers tons of more parking.
Attendance shot from about 500 on an average day of practice to anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000, said Stacey James, the team's executive director of media relations.
In addition to the football side of things and catching glimpses of quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Randy Moss, Patriots fans at Gillette can occupy their time by visiting Patriots Place, an onsite galleria of 70 shops and restaurants. Plus, there is the Patriots Experience, an area of interactive games and fun devoted to children.
NAU is a lot more like the Patriots' former training camp location. Unlike rural Smithfield, R.I., however, there is plenty to do in and around Flagstaff and city officials and civic leaders are hoping to capitalize on football fever.
"Oh, and I think they'll get it, too," James said. "It's not just the news coverage, either. A lot of it becomes word of mouth. A neighbor tells his friend, 'Aw, we had the best time. We went up and saw this and that. We got an autograph from this person and that guy. We had a full day of fun and it didn't cost us anything.' "
That, in addition to the Cardinals' success and the far cooler temperatures of Flagstaff over the Phoenix area, could create an interesting summer population explosion.
----- With success comes more fans and, more national media attention, something James of the Patriots fully expects the Cardinals to experience.
"You're going to see John Clayton of ESPN, Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the guys from Fox; they're all going to be there," James said. "Those guys usually only pick four or five camps to visit and the Cardinals, I'm sure, will be one of them."