Fan convention kicks off

The off-season is increasingly shorter as free agency and draft speculation lasts well into the spring. Fans get their chance to ask questions of players and management at the Bears Sixth Annual Fan Convention, which begins today and goes through the weekend.

The cast includes Hall of Famers Mike Ditka and Dan Hampton as well as current Pro Bowlers Brian Urlacher and Marty Booker.

Ditka and Hampton will participate in the opening ceremonies and sign autographs for a select number of fans. Also tonight, Urlacher and Anthony Thomas will sign autographs for kids only.

In all, more than 60 current and former Bears are scheduled to attend. The group includes present-day players such as Jerry Azumah, Marty Booker, Alex Brown, Mike Brown, Mike Green, Brad Maynard, Jim Miller, R.W. McQuarters, Ted Washington and Dez White.

Also on hand will be Marc Colombo, Mike Caldwell, Mike Gandy, Bobbie Howard, Bryan Knight, Dustin Lyman, Ahmad Merritt, Adrian Peterson, Bernard Robertson, Rex Tucker and Roosevelt Williams.

Eight members of the 1985 Super Bowl XX championship team are slated to attend: Jim Covert, Mike Hartenstine, Dennis McKinnon, Steve McMichael, Emery Moorehead, Jim Morrissey, Tom Thayer and Otis Wilson.

Other alumni who've committed to attend include Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, Brian Baschnagel, Mark Carrier, Rick Casares, Wendell Davis, Bobby Douglass, Raymont Harris, Glen Kozlowski, Revie Sorey, Ed Sprinkle, Bob Thomas, Tom Waddle, Bill Wade and Donnell Woolford.

Bear Report's own Doug Buffone and Hall of Famer Stan Jones were forced to cancel due to illness.

Coach Dick Jauron and general manager Jerry Angelo won't be able to attend the convention because they're in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. But both will answer questions from Bears fans during a conference call on Sunday morning.

Team president and CEO Ted Phillips will also field questions during the Bears Management Report from 9-10 a.m. Saturday. Phillips will then join architects and stadium representatives to discuss the new Soldier Field from 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Three new interactive seminars will turn every admission ticket into a backstage pass. Fans will have an opportunity to listen and ask questions as former Bears swap war stories and WBBM analyst Tom Thayer, a member of the '85 Super Bowl team, breaks down game film.

Kids will also have a chance to play video games against some of their favorite current players.

Other special events include autograph sessions, Bears bingo, Gatorade kids clinics and a Bears Care silent auction. There's also a Kids' Zone filled with inflatable games.

Convention hours are 4-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.

Special convention and ticket packages are available by calling 312-922-4400. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 312-559-1212 or click on the Fan Convention logo on the main page of this web site.

Weekend passes cost $35 for adults and $10 for kids 3-12. A Saturday-only pass is available for $25 for adults and $10 for kids 3-12.

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