The Rams Summer Home
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
By Brett Grassmuck
MEQUON, Wis. – Concordia University president Patrick Ferry was reading the local newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, when he came across a story about the St. Louis Rams scouting universities in Wisconsin for their 2008 training camp.
He finished the article and moved on to his daily routine, but it wasn’t long before he had multiple visitors who had also read the Rams article.
“That very morning, I had two different people say, ‘They should check out Concordia,’” Ferry said. “I have to admit, the thought did not initially occur to me when I read it.”
The third person to come through Ferry’s office door was Al Prochnow, a university vice president, who also suggested the Rams should check out Concordia for their upcoming training camp. Ferry gave Prochnow the ok to pursue the venture.
“The trip was already scheduled, so we only had a couple days to assemble some materials and our presentation,” Ferry said. “We didn’t really have time to think about if it was a good idea or not. We just began with the thought that it was a good idea, and it was worth trying. We haven’t had any second thoughts about that at all.”
Their presentation won over the Rams coaching staff and front office. Just a few days ago, four buses full of Rams players and staff unloaded in front of Concordia’s Coburg Residence Hall, which nearly sits on the shore of Lake Michigan.
“I guess this will be our home for awhile, and it’s great,” Rams coach Scott Linehan said. “It’s an outstanding facility for what we were looking for. They’ve done a great job with us at this point.”
After three years in St. Louis, the decision to move camp away was a tough one for Linehan and the front office. There had been a trend in the NFL toward keeping training camps at home. But Linehan was seeking change for the season, and moving camp away is an extremely significant change.
“(Training in St. Louis) was a positive experience, very convenient,” Linehan said. “It’s nice to be close to the fans and all those kinds of things at the facility. It went fairly well, but it was just the same ole’ same ole’. There’s really no break for the players from the off season program to OTAs. We got to thinking, and we thought the change of environment and the fact that there are no breaks. And we the staff started thinking that we should do things different anyway. I guess there are pluses and minuses for both. But in this case it felt like the right thing to do.”
Concordia had just undergone a barrage of renovations to their athletic facilities and fields plus a renovation of Coburg Hall and the school's dining center. But the thought of hosting an NFL team never crossed their minds. They were simply creating a better environment for their students.
“(Hosting an NFL team) was the farthest thing from our minds,” Ferry said. “We had no inkling about that at all, and we wouldn’t have thought about it if we hadn’t seen that the Rams were thinking about coming up this way anyway. We know that we’re a smaller school, so we don’t have some of the amenities that a larger school might have. But we have many of them in close proximity to each other.”
Once the idea had settled in with Ferry and his staff, the benefits certainly outweighed the negatives. Hosting an NFL training camp is not an easy thing logistically, but for Concordia, the public and community relations benefits are well worth it.
“There has been a lot of attention on our campus,” Ferry said. “For a while here, at least at the beginning, we hope the campus itself is part of the story. That should help us with recruiting students and generating interest. We certainly aren’t making money on the venture. It’s more or less a break-even proposition for us, but the value in terms of public relations, that’s pretty significant.”
For the Rams, it’s nice to get away for more than just a change of scenery. It’s a chance to come together and build camaraderie. It’s a chance for the players to get to know their teammates as they spend nearly every waking moment together.
“We needed a change,” Quarterback Marc Bulger said. “It would be nice to be in St. Louis. If we were 12-4 last year, I’m sure we would be again. At 3-13, you have to change something. It is nice. There are definitely going to be some issues, but the weather is great. I know we are supposed to get a little bit of rain, but the field turf and the staff up here have been great.”
The players couldn’t be happier with the training camp venue, especially the weather and the view of Lake Michigan.
It’s beautiful up here,” offensive lineman Richie Incognito said. “It’s nice. The weather is a lot better than it is in St. Louis. With the nice, mild weather, you can get a lot of work in.”
Concorida may lie in the heart of Green Bay Packers country, but the staff has opened its doors andits hearts to the St. Louis Rams.
“We really would like this to be a springboard to a great season,” Ferry said. “While not aiming to claim credit for that, we’d be very happy to have the staff look back and say, ‘We really had a good start already at training camp.’”
Re: The Rams Summer Home
I wonder if anyone on the RAMS staff has noticed that guy with the Packers hat on filming everything?:D