The Philadelphia Eagles will hold Training Camp in Philadelphia this summer both at the NovaCare Complex and at Lincoln Financial Field after staging the team's annual preseason practices at Lehigh University for the last 17 years.
The new Training Camp plan will include a number of free, public practices at Lincoln Financial Field along with private practices (invitation only) at the NovaCare Complex. The full Training Camp schedule will be released later this spring.
The Eagles become the 21st NFL team to move practices to their own facilities as the demands of practice make it more and more difficult to replicate what the teams have at their practice facilities.
The decision was a very difficult one for the entire organization, noted team president Don Smolenski.
"There are so many people at Lehigh University who went above and beyond to accommodate us and to make Training Camp a special place for fans to travel each summer to get an up-close look at the team," Smolenski said. "We especially want to thank and recognize Joe Sterrett, Dean of Athletics, who opened the doors for us 17 years ago and has been supportive every step of the way and Mary Kay Baker, Director of Conference and Special Housing Services, who was there for us on a daily basis to make sure everything ran smoothly. It's people like them who made this such a difficult decision for us.
"The city of Bethlehem has been part of our lives every summer for the past 17 years."
But, efficient access to all the facilities at the NovaCare Complex - from the training room which is equipped with everything from a hydrotherapy pool and access to an MRI machine, weight rooms with state of the art equipment, an indoor practice venue, video and computer equipment that utilizes network infrastructure - has become a necessity for the team.
"The interaction with our fans during the Training Camp period remains a huge priority," Smolenski said. "As such, we are currently planning to utilize the opportunities available to us at Lincoln Financial Field to have a number of open practices (which will be free) available to all of our fans. We'll announce those specific plans in the coming weeks."
This will be the first time that Eagles' Training Camp has been in Philadelphia since 1943 when practice was held at St. Joseph's University.
"I'm excited that Eagles' Training Camp is returning to Philadelphia," said Mayor Michael Nutter. "I'm looking forward to visiting Lincoln Financial Field with other Eagles fans to give Coach (Chip) Kelly and the team a warm welcome to the city!"
Lehigh had been home to Eagles' Training Camp since 1996. Other venues include West Chester University (1980-95), Widener University (1973-79), Albright College (1968-72) and in Hershey, Pa. (1951-67).
"Lehigh University has enjoyed hosting the Eagles' Training Camp for the past 17 seasons on our campus and on our athletic fields," said Lehigh's Sterrett. "We realize the Eagles are embarking upon a new era for their team and we wish Coach Kelly and the team all the best in the upcoming season."
But the Eagles are not saying goodbye to Lehigh.
"The Eagles and Lehigh University recognize that their long standing relationship is changing but not ending," added Smolenski, "and both parties have expressed a desire to explore community programs in the future."