— Families going to NFL training camps hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite football heroes should plan on bringing a little extra cash along with their autograph book.
If you’re going to the Washington Redskins training camp, that is.
Team owner Daniel Snyder paid a then-record $800 million for the Redskins last year. And with a new and improved workout facility and such high-paid stars on the roster like Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders, the Redskins have turned to the fans for a little relief.
On Thursday, the Redskins became the first team in NFL history to charge admission to its preseason practices. Fans over 12 doled out a $10 admission fee to be part of the preseason action at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va.
Redskins president Steve Baldacci said the decision to charge admission was not a business decision, but Snyder’s attempt to improve fans’ access to the team.
However, other teams around the NFL say the tradition of not charging fans to watch training camp achieves exactly that purpose.
Cost of Entertainment
Between the Redskins’ light morning workout and the afternoon session in pads, music blared from a sound system and fans flocked to the all-new “NFL Experience,” a series of stations where they tested their throwing, running and kicking skills.
About 3,000 fans turned out for the Redskins’ practice sessions Thursday, although a sellout crowd of 7,500 was expected. The response on the whole was lukewarm, but some fans said the price was right.
“I think it’s fine,” said Pam Hanchett of Leesburg, Va., who came along with one other adult and 10 children. “The cost of entertainment is high.”
Hamburgers and chicken sandwiches were selling for $5 each in the concession area, a bottle of beer also was $5 and a hot dog or soda was going for $3.
In the less busy merchandise tent, a Redskins golf shirt was $74.99, T-shirts were from $19.99 to $24.99, and an adult replica football jersey was $59.99.
Head coach Norv Turner compared the cost of attending a practice session to the $70 he spent taking four kids to “a really bad movie” two weeks ago. “You get a heck of a lot better entertainment out here,” he said after the afternoon session.
Maybe so, but other teams around the NFL say they’ll stick by the tradition of not charging fans to watch training camp — at least for now.
That includes the Indianapolis Colts, a team that finished the 1999 season tied with the St. Louis Rams for the best record in football at 13-3.
The Colts said they have never (nor do they have any immediate plans to do so) charged fans to watch Peyton Manning and others practice at the team’s facilities at the Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute, Ind.
With the exception of a special promotional night on July 29 that will include fireworks following a team scrimmage, the Green Bay Packers also have no plans to charge admission. Tickets for that night’s events, to be held at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., will cost $6. Some 70,000 fans are expected to watch the Packers’ preseason practices during the month of training camp.
Bike Rides for Stars
The biggest draw for Packers’ training camp, however, is strictly for kids. As part of an annual tradition, neighborhood kids and teens lend their bikes to Packer players to ride across the parking lot to the practice field. The kids usually walk alongside the player, carrying his helmet.
Sure, it’s a short enough distance for players to walk, but that’s not the point.
The tradition “is encouraged by the coaching staff and the Green Bay Packers as a way to reach out to the fans,” said Michelle Ratchman in the Packers’ public relations office.
The Redskins say they, too, are reaching out to fans. By moving the team’s training facilities to Ashburn from Frostburg, Md., the team said it is saving fans a 3 1/2-hour drive to watch the team workout, Baldacci said.
But “if you look up there, the fans decided” whether it was a good decision to charge admission, he added, pointing to the half-full stands as afternoon practice began.
ABCNEWS.com’s Tracy Ziemer and The Associated Press contributed to this story.