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Officials in Macomb lament loss of Rams, wish team well

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  • Officials in Macomb lament loss of Rams, wish team well

    Officials in Macomb lament loss of Rams, wish team well
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Apr. 08 2005

    There has been speculation nearly every year that the Rams would not return to
    Macomb. Only this time, it really happened.

    The news that Rams will hold training camp in St. Louis this summer instead of
    Western Illinois University was met with surprise and disappointment by
    university and town officials. A glimmer of hope remained that the Rams might
    return someday.

    "The door will be left wide open, believe me," said Western Illinois vice
    president Larry Mortier.

    "We wish them well," said Kim Pierce of the Macomb Area Economic Development
    Corp. "We're going to miss them. But I hope we see them back in '06. If had to
    bet, I would bet they'd be back here."

    According to Pierce, nearly 200,000 visitors have come to watch the Rams in
    Macomb since 1996. And that meant extra business for area gas stations, shops,
    hotels and restaurants during what normally is a slow time of year.

    "It's normally a roll-up-the-sidewalk time before the fall semester started,"
    said Jim Gardner, owner of the Red Ox restaurant. "With the Rams being here,
    that was manna from heaven."

    But for Rams fans, coaches and players, and journalists covering the team, the
    days of the "ugly steak" - the signature menu item at the Red Ox - are over.
    Quarterback Kurt Warner once picked up a $1,100 dinner tab there after taking
    out the entire Rams offensive line. He then posed for pictures with the sons of
    one of the waitresses - both wearing Warner No. 13 jerseys - sitting on his

    Those kinds of experiences and interaction were priceless for Macomb residents.

    "It's big-time for a small town like this to see pro athletes, and coaches, and
    newspaper people and TV people and such," Gardner said Friday. "You folks down
    there get that all the time."

    Regular visitors to training camp became familiar with the homemade pies at the
    Student Prince, the Mexican food at Diamond Dave's, or the karaoke nights at
    watering holes such as the Parkside.

    Spurred by the arrival of the Chicago Bears for three days for joint practices
    and scrimmaging, Pierce estimated that Rams camp brought in $1 million to the
    local economy last summer. Beyond that, having an NFL team train in a town of
    about 18,000 helped put Macomb on the map.

    "It's phenomenal the national recognition that we got, and just the friendships
    that we made over the years," Pierce said.

    In the final analysis, it was nothing that Macomb did wrong that caused the
    Rams to stay home this summer.

    "The trend has really been that teams have been pulling out of going away to
    camp, and training instead at their homes," Pierce said.

    About half of the 32 NFL teams now hold training camp in their hometown. Doing
    so is easier on the coaches, players and staff. And the entire training camp
    concept of two-a-days and lengthy stays away from home is slowly becoming

    The trek to Macomb entailed loading five or six tractor trailers full of
    weights, video equipment, training room equipment and miscellaneous office
    supplies from Rams Park. That no longer will be necessary.

    "A lot of areas are going to be simplified just because we don't have to
    relocate for camp," Rams vice president of operations John Oswald said.

    But there are kinks to be worked out in having training camp at Rams Park, such
    as sufficient parking and seating for fans attending practice.

    Times are announced

    The Rams open preseason play with a home game against the Chicago Bears on
    Friday, Aug. 12. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams then play
    road games at San Diego (Sunday, Aug. 21, 3 p.m.), and at Detroit (Monday, Aug.
    29, 7 p.m.). Preseason play concludes with a home game against Kansas City
    (Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m.).
    Comings and goings

    The Rams are talking to Jamie Martin about returning to the team in '05 and
    competing with Jeff Smoker for the No. 2 quarterback job.

    * * *

    Nick Collins, a cornerback from Bethune-Cookman with 4.38 speed, paid a
    pre-draft visit Friday to Rams Park. Collins projects as a late-round pick.

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

Related Topics


  • RamDez
    Rams break tradition and stay close to home for training camp
    by RamDez
    Rams break tradition and stay close to home for training camp

    Morning practice free for public



    ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Rams are making camp in their own backyard this year.

    The Rams' 2005 training camp officially opens with the first practice at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at Rams Park in Earth City, Mo.

    Morning practices will be open to the public free of charge. Fans can park their cars for free in the vacant field next to Rams Park.

    Seating will available on the hill that borders the west end of the practice fields, and on bleachers being installed in the south end zones of the practice fields.

    There will be autograph sessions after practice, though those sessions could be more limited than they were in Macomb because the players will be exiting to the locker room opposite the fan seating.

    Refreshments will be available, and small coolers are allowed.

    An information desk will set up at the gate marking the entrance to Rams Park.

    John Oswald, the Rams' vice president for operations, said the team doesn't know whether to expect 50,500 or 5,000 fans at the practices.

    "It's hard to put a number on it because we've never had training camp at this facility before," Oswald said. "People ask me, 'How many people can sit on the berm?' I don't know. Anybody's guess is as good as mine."

    Oswald said a break in the heat predicted for later in the week could boost attendance for the practices.

    "Hopefully, we'll be surprised," Oswald said.

    The Rams are holding training camp in St. Louis for the first time since 1995, their inaugural season in the Gateway City. That year, they held camp at Maryville University.

    The Rams began a nine-year run of holding training camp at Western Illinois University in Macomb in 1996.

    Staying home for training camp has become a trend in the NFL as teams look for more a cost-effective and efficient means of holding camp.

    There are 13 NFL teams that will hold training camp at their normal practice facilities this year. That group includes the two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

    Moving their operations to Macomb was a major ordeal for the Rams, who had to ship five tractor trailers loaded with equipment back and forth.

    "You don't have to move equipment, weights, video equipment and trainers," Oswald said. "They're right where they are the other 11 months of the year."

    Oswald said the main drawback with holding training camp at home is food service.

    Players will eat breakfast, dinner and have a nighttime snack at the team's hotel, the Four Point Sheraton, located about half a mile from Rams Park.

    The basketball court at Rams Park...
    -07-27-2005, 01:08 PM
  • RamWraith
    Money, prestige follow Rams out of Macomb
    by RamWraith

    MACOMB, Ill. St. Louis Rams souvenirs are selling at cut-rate prices in Macomb since the team moved their summer training camp after nine years at Western Illinois University.
    But local officials say the team's shift to St. Louis is no bargain for businesses that catered to the nearly 200,000 fans who flocked to Macomb since 1996. The influx pumped up to $1 million a year into the region's economy.

    They also lament losing the prestige and exposure the NFL connection brought to a region that has long grumbled that state and federal dollars routinely bypassed their largely rural area.

    The Rams are holding out hope for a possible return to Macomb after this year's camp, which kicks off Thursday.

    Team executive Bob Wallace called the move an experiment, following an NFL trend that will put nearly half of the league's 32 teams on their home turf for training camp this year.

    He said Macomb would be a front-runner if the team opts to move camp away again.

    Local officials are hopeful, but say they'll try to woo the Chicago Bears or another NFL team if the Rams stay in St. Louis.

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
    -07-23-2005, 06:50 PM
  • RamDez
    Loss of Rams a tough hit for Macomb
    by RamDez
    Loss of Rams a tough hit for Macomb

    July 24, 2005


    MACOMB, Ill. -- Longtime fan Randall Barnwell recently picked up three St. Louis Rams jerseys for $55 at a shop in downtown Macomb, where blue-and-gold souvenirs have been selling at cut-rate prices since the team moved its summer training camp after being in the area for nine years.

    But local officials say the Rams' switch to their training facility near St. Louis is no bargain for businesses that catered to the nearly 200,000 fans who flocked to Macomb for summer workouts since 1996. The influx of people pumped up to $1 million a year into the economy of the region.

    ''It's not going to break anybody, but it was a nice bonus,'' said Tim Thorman, the owner of a downtown restaurant where sales jumped about 20 percent during the Rams' nearly monthlong camps.

    Along with money, townspeople say they'll miss the prestige the NFL connection brought to a region that once dubbed itself "Forgottonia,'' a tongue-in-cheek jab about federal and state dollars that many thought routinely bypassed the largely rural area midway between Peoria and the Iowa border.

    Media coverage bandied Macomb's name nationwide, creating exposure that economic-development officials believe helped attract some businesses to the area.

    ''It's been great marketing. We never could have afforded to pay for that kind of marketing,'' said Kim Pierce, the executive director of the Macomb Area Economic Development Corp.

    Others say they'll miss the stargazing, keeping an eye out for Marshall Faulk, Marc Bulger and other Rams on the practice fields at Western Illinois University and in restaurants and nightclubs around town.

    ''We were going to try to go get autographs and stuff,'' said Barnwell, 30, a Rams fan since the team's days in Los Angeles.

    Barnwell moved a few months ago from Peoria to Avon, about 15 miles northeast of Macomb, and had hoped this summer to watch a few workouts.

    But Bob Wallace, the Rams' executive vice president and general counsel, held out hope for a possible return to Macomb after this camp, which kicks off Thursday and runs through Aug. 19.

    He called the move an experiment, following an NFL trend that will put 15 of the 32 teams in the league on their home turf for training camp this season, up from only six teams 10 years ago.

    Hometown camps keep players in state-of-the-art facilities where they train the rest of the year and have better access to medical treatment, Wallace said. Staying home also ends worries about players making the three-hour drive between St. Louis and Macomb and having possible wrecks on the mostly two-lane highway, he said.

    But players might face more distractions in St. Louis and lose the bonds that can form during...
    -07-24-2005, 09:33 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams look at Concordia for camp
    by RamWraith
    Cherome Owens
    Issue date: 5/7/08

    The St. Louis Rams have limited its potential summer training sites to UW-Whitewater and Concordia University in Mequon. However, campus Athletic Director Paul Plinske said the Rams are leaning toward Concordia.

    "I have not heard a word from them in about three weeks," Plinske said. "Everything right now is just speculation on whether or not we're still in the mix as a potential site for their preseason training camp or as a backup plan to their efforts in negotiating with Concordia University."

    Concordia's Athletic Director Rob Barnhill said the Rams were impressed with their training areas during the team's visit. Similar to UW-Whitewater, Concordia has made several upgrades to its campus facilities in previous years to increase the Rams' interest.

    "We have a lot of really neat amenities here that would make us an attractive training facility," Barnhill said. "We have a brand new air-conditioned resident hall that sits right on Lake Michigan. We have two synthetic turf fields, as well as grass practice space."

    Allen Prochnow, vice president of finance and administration at Concordia, said the Rams had positive remarks for every campus the team visited and is clueless as to which campus they will choose.

    "I'm just not sure which direction they're going to go," Prochnow said. "Anyone of us can probably do the job for them."

    The Rams have yet to make any announcements to which destination they will choose for their summer training but will inform both campuses before the week is over.

    "We haven't made our decision yet," St. Louis Rams Spokesman Rick Smith said. "We hope to make it in the next few days.
    -05-08-2008, 05:31 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams pitch camp in own backyard
    by RamDez
    By Kathleen Nelson
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Jul. 23 2005

    The Rams are moving forward by staying put.

    They have become part of a trend among NFL teams that hold training camp at
    their practice facility - in the Rams' case, in Earth City- rather than in the
    quiet seclusion of venues such as Western Illinois University in Macomb. The
    Rams are the 13th NFL team to eschew the traditional summer getaway to remain
    closer to the comforts of home.

    The biggest advantage of staying at Rams Park is continuity, according to John
    Oswald, Rams vice president of operations. "You know you don't have to break
    anything down, relocate, put it all back together, break it down again and move
    it all back here in a way that's conducive to Coach Martz's practice schedule,"
    he said.

    Oswald said that the team needed five tractor trailers and three to five days
    to load, unload and set up the trainers' equipment, weights, video equipment
    and other gear for each leg of the training camp trip.

    By staying home, Rams players will have easier access to medical specialists, a
    concern of coach Mike Martz. In the past, injured Rams had to travel back and
    forth between Macomb and the doctors in St. Louis.

    Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries are Rams fans, who can watch as many as 15
    practice sessions in their own their backyard, relatively speaking, rather than
    making a three-hour trek through rural Illinois.

    "We hope we have more fans," Oswald said. "It's hard to say how many more
    because so many practices are during the work week."

    The Rams will have just one weekend at which practice will be open to the
    public, July 29-31. The Rams plan to install bleachers and to allow fans to
    stand along a hill behind one of the end zones. They'll offer refreshments for
    sale and allow small coolers.

    They plan to hold an autograph session after the morning practices, though
    player availability will be more limited than it was at Macomb. Fans will be on
    the far side of the field and at one end zone; the players will leave the field
    and go to the locker room headed in the opposite direction.

    Perhaps the biggest issue for fans is parking, which was never a problem in
    Macomb. Plenty of spots were available because of the fields' proximity to
    Western Illinois' stadium parking lot.

    This year, fans should park in the open field north of the main gate of Rams
    Park. The Rams plan to lay gravel over the grass to avoid a repeat of the muddy
    trap that golf fans fell into at the Boone Valley Classic in 2000, when rains
    turned a field into quicksand and spectators couldn't get their cars out of the

    Dan Linza,...
    -07-24-2005, 01:29 AM