The Philadelphia Eagles will hold just one open training camp practice this year at Lincoln Financial Field, and fans will have to pay to attend.
It’s bad enough they’re restricting access — it’s the first time they’ve held just one workout at the Linc since 2012 — but to also charge people to watch their favorite team is wrong. What’s even worse is that the $10 fee for the Aug. 4 practice applies to everyone except fans 2 years old and under.
In other words, if our son and daughter-in-law want to take our 3- and 1-year-old grandsons to see the practice, they’d have to shell out a sawbuck for Hampton.
Seriously? I could see 12-and-under or even 10-and-under. Anyone who’s been alive for less than a decade shouldn’t have to fork over $10 to watch a practice, especially those who are too young to even use a fork.
The Eagles are couching the gouging by announcing all proceeds will be donated to autism research, the organization’s primary charity.
The franchise has done an amazing job of raising awareness and money for research into autism. The Eagles’ Autism Challenge, a series of biking and running events, produced more than $3.5 million last month and has raised more than $6.2 million in two years.
There’s no question it’s a worthy cause, but fans should have the option of donating. Maybe set up donation bins at all the entrances or stage a 50/50 raffle, like they do at regular-season games, with the money slated for autism research.
This is not the first time the Eagles have held just one workout at the Linc or charged admission. From 2009 to 2012, tickets to their annual Flight Night practice started at $20 for adults and $10 for children. Seats between the 40-yard lines were $30 a person. All proceeds went to the former Eagles Youth Partnership.
However, that was during the time the Eagles held training camp at Lehigh University. Thousands of fans would make the trek to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to watch the Birds’ free two-a-day workouts.
Diehards would plan their summer vacations around it, skipping trips to the Jersey Shore in favor of the Lehigh Valley. Instead of hitting the beaches and boardwalks in Ocean City and Wildwood, they would fill the stands at Lehigh’s practice fields to watch the morning workouts, hang out in the parking lot for a couple hours, then head back for the afternoon session.
That changed in 2013, when the team followed a growing NFL trend and decided to hold training camp at its permanent facilities.
Logistics dictated that practices at the NovaCare Complex be restricted to a select number of season-ticket holders and corporate sponsors. The team sought to placate their frustrated fans by holding more public workouts at the Linc.
In 2013, coach Chip Kelly’s first season, they had four practices. All were free. All drew crowds in excess of 25,000. The Eagles cut it back to three in 2014, which featured two at the Linc and a terrific event at Franklin Field that honored the team’s 1960 championship team.
For the past four seasons, fans had two opportunities to watch the Eagles at the Linc. For some, it was their only opportunities to see their favorite players in person without stopping at the ATM on their way.
The practices really don’t feature much action. The Eagles reduced the intensity after starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley tore his ACL during the inaugural Flight Night in 2009 and missed that entire season.
There is no hitting, and there is a lot of position-specific work. The highlights are always the one-one-drills, in which defensive backs try to cover wide receivers while Carson Wentz and the other quarterbacks fire passes their way.
Yet, fans flock to watch them. They fill the lower bowl at the Linc, sometimes braving sweltering heat, to watch Wentz, safety Malcolm Jenkins and company. Afterward, they all rush to the front rows, screaming and cheering in hopes a player will head their way and sign autographs before ducking into the tunnel.
They will probably show up again Aug. 4, but you can bet my grandsons won’t be there. If my son and daughter-in-law are going to spend $10 on their 3-year-old, they’re going to be playing skeeball at the Family Fun Arcade in Cape May, followed by a funnel cake.
And yes, Hampton knows how to use a fork.
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.