Today likely marks the beginning of the penultimate Carolina Panthers training camp at Wofford College. 2019 will be the curtain call in Sparkle City – soon after, perhaps for Fan Fest 2020, the team will debut a brand new training facility, strategically located to ensure there remains a South Carolina face to the Carolina Panthers that spend the bulk of their time in the northern half of the Carolinas.
The training facility may not end up in South Carolina, but rest assured, it will be built.
More than two-thirds of the NFL teams are now holding camp in their own facilities. Many of these facilities adorned with sponsors and snazzy names like TCO Performance Center, NovaCare Complex and Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The Panthers are one of only six* teams holding their camp on a collegiate campus. They read like places from a bygone era: Wofford, St. John Fisher College, Missouri Western State University, Olivet Nazarene University, St. Norbert College, and Saint Vincent College – I’m not saying it’s old school thinking, but literally every team not named the Panthers that still does it was a well-established franchise by the time of the AFL-NFL merger.
The asterisk is for the Los Angeles Rams who, while technically are at Cal-Irvine this year, they build their LA megastadium, which will bring everything, including the NFL Network, in-house. With teams constantly in the hunt for new revenue streams, these new facilities give the teams new opportunities to capitalize and gain more control in the process; training camp attendance has skyrocketed and many teams have moved quickly to invest in the concept. Increased attendance only makes it even more advantageous for the teams to be the landlords.
The players benefit too. As fun as it is to reminisce about Kindal Moorehead getting a nasty spider bite, Christian McCaffrey bringing a Glade Plug-In to camp or defensive tackles squeezing into dorm bunks, we’re talking about grown men with families, who also happen to be elite athletes. They don’t need to be squirreled away so they can bond together like the Junction Boys, they need facilities to treat and prepare their bodies – other than not getting to point at Gaffney’s Peach on the way down I-85, it’s hard to imagine a way it won’t be better for players.
For fans, it’s not as clear cut. The days of packing a cooler are almost certainly numbered, and helping your child to get an autograph from his favorite player will likely not get easier. The overall experience will be more engaging, the drive will be more convenient, and they’ll hold other fun events complete with Sir Purr, but there will be something different.
It’s going to be hard to take younger Panthers fans seriously when they lament the summer heat at the CPI Security Performance Lair.
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