BOURBONNAIS – Bears training camps will be held at Olivet Nazarene University for another nine years after this one, after the team and university officials worked out an agreement that keeps the Bears as one of a diminishing number of NFL teams holding training camps away from their franchise headquarters.
The deal is a one-year contract that rolls over every year for a total of nine, a structure in line with financial requirements for such contracts. ONU President John Bowling added that the arrangement could extend beyond the end of this new agreement.
The announcement comes a day after a record camp crowd of more than 20,000, and training camps typically attract upwards of 100,000 fans.
“What a great touchpoint for our fans,” said Bears general manager Phil Emery, who first came to camp at ONU in 2002 while serving as a Bears scout. “This situation is optimal. We’re able to get centrally located. I really believe we get more fan influx. We get our players away to where they can come together with their team and establish their identity.
“And you can’t [overestimate] the fan contact. This facility allows us to do that in a much bigger better way than we could staying at home for our situation.”
Bowling said the school will substantially enlarge and improve its facilities for the university, the Bears and for fans. “It’ll help us as we plan for the future,” Bowling said.
ONU will completely rebuild the practice fields, double the size of the outdoor locker room, and invest in walks, lights and “things that will help the fan experience,” Bowling said.
He did not venture an estimate of the economic impact on the university or the town from the Bears holding camp at Olivet Nazarene.
The Bears first came to ONU in 2002 after holding camps in Platteville, Wisc., from 1984-2001.