I finally did it. I made the trek out to Chicago Bears Training Camp. I was reluctant for many years thinking that it would be a pain in the butt to drive all the way to Bourbonais, IL and deal with the crowds and parking. Well, I learned a few things that made my reservations go away.
Have someone else drive – Find someone who is going to go to Training Camp anyway and hitch a ride. That’s what I did. Thanks Boomer.
Get there early – Since I’m always paranoid about being late, we got there nice and early. Apparently that is the trick to getting parking and beating the crowds. Who knew?
The Chicago Bears have Training Camp organized very well. There are security people stationed all over the campus directing you where to go. The fields are set up very nicely for Bears Fans to observe practice. Also, everything is kid friendly. Other than my kids being totally uninterested in going to watch the Bears practice, I would bring them to Training Camp with no reservations at all. They had a whole Kids Zone set up with bouncy houses and activities.
There are two fields, one for the offense and one for the defense. Try and get a seat closest to the field where the offense is. That is where the media is observing so you figure that is where most of the action is taking place. Also, since the media is standing on the sideline, I suggest sitting on the bleachers instead of setting up on the ground. I know most people would figure being closest to the field would yeild the best view, but you will be blocked by the media who are observing and players who are standing on the sideline waiting to sub in on drills.
I know alot of people go to training camp expecting to get autographs and to meet their favorite players. I hate to break it to you, but most of the players do not offer autographs, and the ones who do usually only sign items for kids. I saw Phil Emery, Jermon Bushrod, and Craig Steltz take the time out to sign autographs after practice. I’m not saying it’s not possible to get autographs, just don’t go there expecting to get them.
This year there have been an average of about 9000 fans a day coming out to watch the Chicago Bears at Training Camp. If you want to beat the crowds, try and go during the week to take advantage of smaller crowds. I went on a Sunday and 9000 fans didn’t seem overwhelming. As long as you get there early and get a bleacher seat, I think you will still have a great experience as a fan at Training Camp.
Make sure you check the Chicago Bears website at http://www.chicagobears.com/events/training-camp.html to check the training camp schedule before you go. Practice is subject to change at any time so if you don’t check before you leave, you may end up going when they have decided to close practice to the public. Also, depending on weather, they may change practice at a moments notice so check to see if it is going to rain.