The general feeling among several veteran NFL players has been that the delays in getting a new collective bargaining agreement aren't hurting their feelings much. As far as most of them are concerned, missing training camp wouldn't break their hearts. But, for a lot of people that are counting on NFL teams descending on their cities – and bringing tens of thousands of fans with them – training camp could be a lot more painful for those who don't practice in "shells" on a hot August afternoon.
There was a time when all 32 teams went somewhere else to conduct their training camps. They liked having players out of their element to get their full concentration, and the growing secrecy of the schemes being implemented meant training camps off the beaten path were desirable.
Those days are dying off – almost half the league now conducts training camp on team-owned facilities. The Vikings may eventually become one of those teams – a potential Zygiland complex adjacent to a new stadium could include a complex that would house fans during training camp. In the case of the Vikings, training camp is held in the city of Mankato. It's more than an hour from the Metrodome and it's far enough way that many players feel like their dorm rooms are well-appointed prison cells.
But outside the dorms and the practice fields, there is a lot of money being made. From food vendors to those selling Vikings memorabilia, there is significant money that changes hands on-site and tens of thousands of dollars spent every day outside of the Vikings Village complex in Mankato. Whether it's filling the gas tank, staying in a hotel, going to a restaurant or hitting the bar, NFL fans spend money.
Many fans find it hard not to drop $50 a day when viewing the Vikings at camp, even when (for the most part) staying sober. Those without restrictions find it virtually impossible not to drop a couple hundred bucks a day. And then there are the whales that provide thousands in revenue. They don't sit on hot metal bleachers, but they definitely count.
Those unfamiliar with Minnesota might not be able to identify Mankato on a map. That isn't unusual. Cities and towns such as Flowery Branch, Ga., Westminster, Md., Pittsford, N.Y., Spartanburg, S.C., Bourbonnias, Ill., Georgetown, Ky., Andersonville, Ind., St. Joseph, Mo., Cortland, N.Y., Bethlehem, Pa., Latrobe, Pa., Earth City, Mo. and Renton, Wash. are in the same boat as Mankato.
If training camps are eliminated and teams start conducting the season prep work at their own facilities, the towns listed above – those who work in the hotels, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, campgrounds, etc. – are given additional work shifts and, without the NFL team being in town for two weeks, won't get that extra work that may pay off in giving their kids better Christmas presents.
The battles that are ongoing between the owners and players will get resolved at some point. Those players under long-term veteran contracts have no real motivation to get a deal done before August. It's hard to blame them. One of the downsides (there aren't many) of signing a big-money, long-term contract is that you have to go to training camp every year. One is a grind. Five are a pain. Ten or more are drudgery. But beyond the players and owners, there are a lot of people that would lose money – even if $8 an hour at a time – if training camps are scuttled.
The victims of the current lockout haven't been counted yet. Those who make money off the wide swath cut by the NFL have yet to feel the pinch. But it's approaching and those who will suffer the most financially will be those who could use the extra income the most.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Lockout 2 months from affecting camp workers
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