The Bengals are staying put after last season’s AFC playoff berth and going downtown to display their 2012 edition at a Paul Brown Stadium training camp.
For the first time in their 45-year history the Bengals won’t pack up and spend the first part of the preseason in a campus setting an hour from home. Citing an effort to allow the optimum number of fans to see the team and the new collective bargaining agreement that limits training camp practices to one per day, the club called its downtown route on Friday.
Head coach Marvin Lewis has yet to set a practice schedule, but PBS figures to be the scene of several open sessions to the public. The annual intrasquad scrimmage and Mock Game weekend were staples of Lewis’s seven camps before last season’s lockout changed the schedule and the club is looking at a variety of fan events and interaction with players that could turn the camp into a sort of Bengalthon.
“Some very positive opportunities both for fans and the local economy will now be available, and we are excited to bring the benefits to Greater Cincinnati,” said Katie Blackburn, the Bengals vice president, in the team’s news release. “We think fans will like what we have to offer.”
Staying at home allows Lewis’s staff to have full use of its technology that has been upgraded by more than $1 million in recent years. The medical and training staffs as well as the weight room also won’t be dealing with reduced loads on the road.
A pair of local leaders, Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory and Hamilton County Commission president Greg Hartman, praised the camp that projects a boost for the downtown economy with fans seeking hotels, food and entertainment. The camp runs from late July to mid-August with a specific a schedule to be announced in the coming months.
“It’s great to have the Bengals training camp as a major addition to the downtown summer scene,” Mallory said via the club. “With all of the excitement from last year’s playoff finish, the timing couldn’t be better.”
The move comes as the major elements of The Banks project have begun to sprout between PBS and Great American Ball Park.
“Everything is coming together at The Banks, and the addition of Bengals training camp will provide just one more reason for people to come downtown,” Hartman said in the release. “This is another example of converting the promises of The Banks into a reality.”
The decision ends a 15-year camp run at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., that followed the 29 years at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio. The trend in the last 15 years or so during the NFL’s stadium boom has been to stay at home. Last season the Bengals were one of about half the teams that went on the road for camp.
“Georgetown has been a great place for us, but this is the best way for our team to get ready for the 2012 regular season,” Lewis said in the club’s press release. “We're going to be right in our home, and that’s where you’re best suited with the way the (NFL) rules have changed. We also hope to see some fans that maybe haven’t had a chance to see us at camp before, and we’re excited to join all the great activities that are happening in the summertime in our downtown.”
Bengals president Mike Brown, whose friendship with Georgetown president Bill Crouch is a driving force in the relationship, met with him Thursday to finalize the call. Brown has always enjoyed the camp experience and often reminds people he’s been doing it for 66 years. Or ever since he was 11 years old, when his father, Paul Brown, took the inaugural Cleveland Browns to camp.
“The new rules bring an aspect that the Bengals and Georgetown College must adjust to,” Brown said in the release. “But people who know me know that I will personally miss going away to camp very much. Georgetown is a special place for the Bengals and will remain so. I thank Bill Crouch for working with us to make the arrangement happen. The people we have worked with over the years have been unfailingly helpful and knowledgeable. They have become our dear friends and will remain so.”