Olivet Nazarene was one of several finalists, but was chosen for its proximity to Chicago, its superior facilities and the willingness of local communities to forge a lasting relationship with the organization.
The fans will be able to choose from a variety of activities in the area. There will be a store stocked with team merchandise, an interactive area with inflatable games like the one at the Bears Fan Convention, face painters, concessions and a sponsor village. There is also a golf course at nearby Bon Vivant Country Club.
Olivet Nazarene has purchased portable bleachers that will seat up to 1,500 fans and added 175 parking spaces. There will also be a mist tent, a shade tent with picnic tables and perhaps even a dunk tank to combat the summer heat for fans of all ages.
Training camp will run from July 26-Aug. 14. Practices are open to the public and free of charge. (A schedule with dates and times has not yet been released.) Detailed directions are available on Olivet's web site, www.bearstrainingcamp.info, and by calling the university's training camp hotline at 815-35-BEARS.
Bourbonnais (pop. 16,256) is located just north of Kankakee and 50 miles south of Chicago's Loop. (Platteville is about 180 miles from Chicago.) The proximity of the new site to the team's fan base is expected to result in more day trips and half-day trips.
Olivet Nazarene has spent $1.5 million to upgrade its facilities to accommodate the Bears. That includes the construction of a 4,500-square foot locker room, the irrigation and resodding of five football fields, the installation of lights on the main field, and the creation of a 700-foot-long berm that stretches the length of three end zones from which fans can watch practice.