A few months ago, it was speculated that the Jets annual training camp in Cortland, NY could be affected by the lockout.
Back in March, I wrote about how I was planning on visiting SUNY Cortland this summer to check out the scene up there.
But unfortunately, now I can’t do that. For the Jets, camp will go on (barring the lockout, of course) in their practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.
“With all the variables presented by this unique offseason, we felt it was best for the Jets that we hold our training camp here at our practice facility,” general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. “This was not an easy decision, but it’s one we felt we needed to make in order to give us the best chance to win.”
For the residents of Cortland, things won’t be the same.
“Just their presence alone has stimulated people. It’s just good for the mental health of the community,” said SUNY Cortland football coach Dan MacNeill. “For our people, it’s been fun. It has impacted the football program. We don’t have normal use of our facilities. But an NFL franchise, no matter where you go, there’s a heck of a following.”
An article by Dave Campbell of the Associated Press earlier this month estimated the potential economic impact of the Cortland camp being cancelled at roughly $5.8 million.
According to a report from the university, Jets camp drew 41,000 visitors last year, from 32 states and four Canadian provinces. Though nearly 90 percent were from New York, 59 of the 62 counties were represented. The overall economic effect of camp has been pegged at $5.8 million, and spectators at last summer’s camp accounted for 82 percent of that spending.
“We think it will be even bigger this year if they can get the collective bargaining agreement done,” SUNY Cortland president Erik Bitterbaum said. “From an economic perspective, it’s an economic engine, and from a morale standpoint it lifts the community. People spruce up their neighborhoods. It really was a point of pride.”
Doug’s Fish Fry is a half-mile down the road from the practice field, and it’s become a destination for fans. Owner Mark Braun has the place spruced up just as one would expect from a Jets season ticket-holder the past 15 years.
There are Jets photos and autographs at every turn. Welcome banners are nailed to all corners above the main dining area, and a “Hard Knocks” T-shirt in honor of the popular HBO documentary series hangs between two burnt-orange neon fish signs.
“I’m just nervous if we miss a year they might not remember us as easily,” Braun said. “I’ll miss it as a business owner, but more as a fan.”
Nothing against Florham Park, where the Jets have a beautiful practice facility, but it’ll be really weird to have a summer without the Cortland camps.
The city and the facilities out there got a ton of publicity thanks to Hard Knocks last season, and it’s been a staple of Rex Ryan’s Jets tenure. I can only hope that we have not seen the last of it.