On July 28, the Philadelphia Eagles will open Lincoln Financial Field to offer fans the first glimpse of what the team looks like under new head coach Chip Kelly. In addition, the Eagles will celebrate the team's alumni with an impressive list of attendees scheduled to be announced in the near future.
If there was any question regarding how excited fans are for the start of the new season, they responded by reserving nearly 49,000 tickets for the first of the five open practices at Lincoln Financial Field. In fact, President Don Smolenski said that over 200,000 tickets have been reserved for the five practices with the potential for a higher total thanks to walk-ups.
"We didn't know what to expect in respect to the tickets. It's exciting to see the numbers grow literally on a daily basis," Smolenski said. "We're also walking into it with eyes wide open. It's a learning experience for us. We're going to seek feedback from the fans, get their feedback and learn from it.
"It's new, but we've tried to go through as much detail as we can."
This is the first time that the Eagles are holding Training Camp in Philadelphia since 1943. The past 17 Training Camps have been held at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. where the attendance averaged around 6,000 fans per day. The Eagles are one of 19 teams that are holding Training Camp at their own facility. The vast majority of the practices will be held at the NovaCare Complex. Select season ticket holders and corporate sponsors received invitations to those practices.
Smolenski said it was important that season ticket holders from each section of the stadium were invited to the practices at the NovaCare Complex, which will have an intimate feel with only 300-400 attendees each day. To prepare the facility, new sod was installed and the four fields (three full fields and a warm-up area) were re-lined to lay out east to west instead of north and south. Tents for fans and media have been installed. The walkway leading to the fields received new landscaping and murals featuring player imagery. Kelly has also overhauled the weight room equipment and added new communication and monitoring devices at the facility. For example, LED screens showcase the players' daily schedule and have nuggets of info such as which players lost the most body fat in a timeframe or which position group hydrated the best to foster friendly competition.
The intimate setting at the NovaCare Complex will transition to a family-friendly, gameday-like atmosphere for the five open practices at Lincoln Financial Field. Each practice has a theme from the Alumni Day to the LeSean McCoy Bobblehead Giveaway. Tickets and parking, thanks to Peter Luukko of Comcast-Spectacor and David Montgomery of the Phillies who oversee lots surrounding the stadium, will be free. There will be no alcohol served. Most importantly, Smolenski said that script for the practices at Lincoln Financial Field will match the ones at the NovaCare Complex.
"I think they'll like the energy. I'm interested to see that myself because I've seen it now through all of the OTAs, the minicamp. ... From the music and the enthusiasm and sort of the pace of it, I think that will be intriguing to them in terms of what they see and how quickly it moves from session to session," Smolenski said.
"Hopefully, we can create a fun, festive atmosphere. The energy will translate. We're trying to do some things in the (HeadHouse) Plaza prior to the start of practice. The post-game activities, allowing the kids to come down and catch a pass on the field, that's a new experience. We tried to find a balance."
It is important to note that the Eagles will be implementing the NFL's new Clear Bag Security Measures for the five Training Camp practices at Lincoln Financial Field. Smolenski urged fans not to bring a lot of items, but if they do, please use a clear plastic bag or a Ziploc bag. Season Ticket Holders will receive a complimentary bag with their season tickets. There will also be elements of the Stadium Revitalization project complete before the open practices including the gate expansion, Pro Shop renovation and enhancements to the concession stands.
The Eagles will also have their first joint practices since 1988 when the New England Patriots come to town for two practices on August 6 and 7 prior to the August 9 preseason affair. Smolenski explained that the Eagles wanted to host the practices at the stadium, but with only one field the logistics would not work out. New England will operate out of Lincoln Financial Field for those days and bus over to the NovaCare Complex.
A long, but exciting offseason is about to come to a close. Rookies and selected veterans report for Training Camp on Monday. The veterans report next Thursday and the first full-team practice is at the NovaCare Complex next Friday. Fans will very soon get their first look at what the Philadelphia Eagles look like under their new head coach.
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