Saint Vincent is in top shape for Steelers
Steelers Camp '08 ... 11 days and counting
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
By Colin Dunlap, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Over the drone of a weed whacker and the backdrop of a landscaper deftly cutting the practice field, Saint Vincent College president Jim Towey yesterday stood at Chuck Noll Field and spoke of the impeding deluge that is Steelers training camp.
On the cusp of the Steelers visiting the tiny Latrobe campus for the 42nd consecutive year, Towey reiterated that everything has been going precisely as planned.
"People know that if it is late-July, and it is sunny out, it is time for Steelers football to return to our campus," Towey said.
"We look at our campus as a canvas where the Steelers begin the creation each year of a masterpiece at this camp."
And the construction of that masterpiece -- as Towey calls it -- will begin in 11 days, when players report July 27 to Saint Vincent. The first workout is slated for the next day at 2:55 p.m., a day traditionally met with traffic on Route 30 as scores of fans navigate their way to the Latrobe school.
There will be 13 public practices at Saint Vincent this year and a night practice Aug. 1 at Latrobe Memorial Stadium before camp breaks Aug. 18.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin -- who delivered the commencement address at Saint Vincent in May -- went through his first training camp at the school as an NFL head coach last year. When he first met with Saint Vincent officials headed into last year's camp, he decided to largely leave things as former coach Bill Cowher had them and make changes after his first year if needed.
So what did Tomlin learn most from his initial experience at Saint Vincent?
"Last year, coach Tomlin just kind of wanted to get though camp and see if there were any changes that needed to be made and see what he liked and what he didn't like," said Larry Hendrick, Saint Vincent director of facility management. "This year, there were no changes. With the way the camp is setup, he kind of liked the way we had it and left it that way."
For over four decades, that is how it has been at Saint Vincent -- kind of the same way. That is what school officials believe endears people to come out to training camp. Nowhere else can you get as close to a full team of professional athletes without paying for parking or dishing out an admission fee. Fans are also encouraged to bring a picnic basket, avoiding the rising cost of concessions usually associated with professional sports.
All that said, though, the stream of Steelers fans who make their annual pilgrimages to Saint Vincent do cause an influx of dollars to the local economy. Just how much has never been figured out.
"It is impossible to quantify that, to put an exact dollar amount on how much the Steelers coming to training camp here brings into Saint Vincent College and, for that matter, brings into the region," said Don Orlando, the school's director of public relations. "All I can say is that we know it is enormous. We never took the time to put a study together, or try to come up with an exact number.
"All we know is this: It certainly has a huge positive impact."