While NFL owners and players meet the next week in Chicago to try to bring an end to the now four-month long workout, the clock is ticking on reaching an agreement in time to hold training camps, which usually begin at the end of July. With the media focused on how the two sides will divide their $9 billion dollar pie, little attention is being paid to the folks with perhaps the biggest stake in seeing the labor impasse resolved. For the small towns that annually host NFL camps, like Anderson, Indiana (Colts), Georgetown, Kentucky (Bengals), and Flagstaff, Arizona (Cardinals),the financial lifeblood of their towns is at stake.
Anderson, Indiana, just northeast of Indianapolis, has suffered greatly from the recession. The closing of the GM plant there cost the city its largest employer, so when the Colts agreed to hold their training camp at Anderson University, city leaders were ecstatic. Last year, it is estimated that the Colts added $6.5 million to the local economy through the influx of fans coming to Anderson to see Peyton Manning and his teammates prepare for the season. While there, they paid for parking, ate at local restaurants, and stayed at local hotels.
The Bengals have been training in Georgetown, Kentucky, just north of Lexington now since 1997. Georgetown city officials estimate the Bengals generate an additional $2.5 million to the local economy. The city itself has grown around hosting the Bengals, luring in businesses such as Toyota and increasing land development. If there’s no camp, Toyota will most likely stay in Georgetown, but there’s no questioning the impact having the camp has had on the city and the difficulty of the loss if there is no camp.
In Flagstaff, Arizona, the Cardinals, especially with their recent run of success, generate a whopping $10 million for the local economy. Again, the recipients of this money operate local restaurants, hotels, gas stations, souvenir shops, and the like. To remove the source of their biggest annual event will be disastrous for many.
Many fans have become desensitized to the news of the lockout, tired of hearing about the squabbles of billionaire owners and multi-millionaire players. To others, like season ticket holders, as long as the lockout gets resolved before the regular season, there’s no real concern. For the folks that live and work in Anderson, Georgetown, Flagstaff, and 27 other small towns, there is a clear and present danger. If the NFL and players can’t reach an agreement next week, in the shadow of a gloomy economy, things will be getting even darker there.
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