PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles plan to cut the number of public training camp practices at Lincoln Financial Field from two to one this summer and will charge admission, sources said, with proceeds going to the team's charity.
Ticket prices will be $10, and the money will go to the Eagles Autism Challenge, which raises funds for autism research.
The merits of this decision have been debated inside the building, per multiple sources, given that training camp access has already decreased significantly in recent years and because these free sessions are often to the benefit of lower-income families who want to connect with the team but can't afford game tickets. Ultimately, the desire to further the team's charitable efforts won out.
The Eagles had upwards of 18 open practices a summer for the 17 years training camp was held at Lehigh University. That number went down to five when the team decided to move camp back to Philadelphia in 2013, and has since dwindled to one practice that is open to the public, which now comes at a cost, albeit for charity.
The rest of the Eagles' practices will be held at the smaller NovaCare Complex practice facility. Because of the limited space, those sessions are by invite only and include mostly corporate sponsors and a small group of season-ticket holders.
Training camp access has changed considerably across the league in recent seasons, with more teams opting to use their own practice facilities rather than go away for camp, and declining more and more to spend the money it costs to host open practices at their respective stadiums.
The Eagles aren't the first team to charge for training camp. The Washington Redskins tried it in 2000 shortly after Dan Snyder bought the team. It was short-lived. One reason why Washington tabled the idea was that scouts from opposing teams were allowed to attend practices that charged admission, and did so regularly. That policy has since been changed. Teams are now prohibited from attending another club's practice whether there is an admission fee or not.
Last offseason, the Minnesota Vikings sold premium seating for their 18 open practices, but free tickets were available for all of those sessions at the Vikings' new TCO Performance Center in Eagan. In July, the Falcons charged $5 per ticket for their first practice at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with proceeds benefiting the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee's capital improvement project, but the sessions held at their home facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, were free.
The Seahawks charge a $10 transportation fee for practices at their VMAC training facility, requiring all fans to get to the field via provided shuttles from a nearby mall.
Based on polling of the 32 ESPN NFL Nation reporters, the Eagles and Seahawks are currently the only teams that do not offer a public practice that can be accessed without a fee. Seattle has one training camp practice this year at Pop Keeney stadium that comes with a $10 "event-related fee" as well. The other 11 open practices will be held at their training facility, one of the largest in the NFL, with registration on a first-come, first-serve basis.
All of the proceeds for the lone open Philly practice will go to charity. The Eagles have raised over $6 million in the first two years of the Eagles Autism Challenge, an endeavor near and dear to team CEO/Chairman Jeffrey Lurie, whose brother, Peter, is on the spectrum.
Beginning this season, the team is providing a sensory room inside Lincoln Financial Field to accommodate individuals and families impacted by autism.