It's official. The Arizona Cardinals will hold training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium. There are still some details with the City of Glendale to hammer out, but the team is "hopeful" that these thing can be worked out.
Team president Michael Bidwill spoke to the media about the decision, explaining some of the reasons for the move and spelling out some of the advantages. Bidwill cited how much closer it will be to largest part of the fanbase, where 4.3 million people reside.
"Not all those people can afford to take time off, drive up and spend the night in Flagstaff over the past several years, so we expect that it's going to be more accessible to more fans to come out and enjoy the stadium," he said. "It's free, there's free parking, it's air conditioned, come down watch the new players and the veteran players and see what we've got going on here."
There will be a lot more fan activities than in Flagstaff that will happen in the stadium.
The stat we have heard before was mentioned -- 20 of the 32 NFL teams hold training camp in their own stadium. It is a growing trend.
Is he worried about alienating fans who have had the tradition of going up to Flag? "No, I think fans need to understand that we had to make the best decision competitively for the team," he answered.
He placed the blame firmly in the hands of those who run things at Northern Arizona University, apologizing to the business community. He called the facilities that NAU moved the team two "substandard for a professional football team," especially when paying "big rent." Bidwill said that the university "really made this decision easy for us."
"I was not going to let the team be at a competitive disadvantage by continuing to use those facilities," he said.
The team "has a plan for the turf," for those concerned about the grass. Head coach Bruce Arians told reporters that there is a 50-yard articifial turf field that they have at the stadium they will use for their drills and that, since the CBA requires that teams have an off day every seven days, that will be used to get the grass worked on.
There will be a conflict on August 1, with a soccer game taking place. On that day, the team will work out at ASU.
As for the fans, I know that the general feeling here in this community is that it is a bummer and even a travesty to some that the team is abandoning Flagstaff. However, in speaking to many fans in attendance to Fan Fest, I spoke to only one that had ever gone up north to watch the team. When I told them that training camp would now be held in the stadium, the reaction every single time was very positive -- even thrilled -- because they would be able to come see the team.
Hard core fans would take the trip. What this move is expected to do is draw more of the casual fans in. It will be more accessible to more of the hard core fans as well. as much as it stinks for those who love the tradition of Flagstaff, this move is a smart one.
12,000 fans showed up on a Tuesday night to watch a practice. I would not be surprised to see consistently larger crowds than those you see up north.
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