EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The brave new world of training camp has a majority of teams staying home rather than taking their show on the road for the better part of a month. This home comfort has its benefits, but also comes with challenges.
NFL facilities aren’t naturally designed to accommodate fans. There are no stands and/or amenities for the general public. So, little by little, year by year, teams are having to find ways to improve the experience and iron out the kinks.
The New York Giants are among the 19 teams that will stay at home for training camp this year. It's their fourth straight year in New Jersey rather than upstate New York. This year they will have 11 practices open to the public, beginning Friday (weather permitting) and running through Aug. 14.
Slowly but surely, the experience is improving. Fans will no longer be staring so regularly through chain-link fences or baking in the sun.The chances of the bleachers collapsing have (hopefully) greatly decreased. The Giants seem to have this thing trending in the right direction.
Here’s what you can expect to see and get if you come out to the Quest Diagnostic Training Center.
The action will take place on three fields, with two being 70 yards long and running east-west, and a regulation version running north-south.
A total of 3,500 fans can be accommodated in the bleachers. Sight lines have been a problem in the past. This year the Giants raised the bleachers by an additional foot, allowing for a better view of the action on the field rather than trying to watch through the chain-link fence.
Stadium rather than bench seating was installed for comfort.
The bleachers are now covered by a roof to provide shade from the blazing summer sun. They were completely uncovered last year.
A Kids Zone that includes a bounce house and slide and other games is located at the north side of the grounds.
Giveaways for the first 1,000 kids include Giants wristbands and headbands, sunglasses, water bottles and coloring books.
There also is a new picnic area for families to eat and stay cool. Food ($7 for a hot dog, chips and soda) along with other standard stadium fare are available throughout the grounds. Complimentary water will also be available.
Player autographs are available daily for the first 400 children 12 and under. Every day will be a different position group. Alumni autographs are available daily, with at least two former Giants signing for 90 minutes during practice to fans of all ages. On some days, there will be as many as four Giants alumni in attendance. And there's free WiFi and a mobile app to assist fans.
Training camp can be a pretty fun day in the marshlands. It may not be the same intimate experience that was available in Albany in the past, but it should be an improved experience from the past few years in East Rutherford.