Richmond, VA (August 6, 2016) – Compared to past camps, attendance at Redskins training camp in Richmond has been noticeably minuscule. It’s so noticeable that even players have questioned where the fans are.
Maybe it’s the lack of juicy headlines surrounding the team – there’s no quarterback controversy, no major storylines questioning a player’s off-field transgressions, no known conflict between players, coach, or ownership, or no glaring need that was not addressed or overly addressed in the offseason. Are the Redskins too boring to attend training camp?
Since the low level of hype surrounding the team is what the fan base has long been clamoring for, I believe the answer to the attendance questions is a lot more simple than the lack of storylines, and that’s the $10-20 parking fees fans must pay to attend.
Based on the Ashburn experience, when parking and admission were free, it was very common for local fans to attend camp on multiple occasions. Whether it was a retired school teacher with an interest in supporting the home team, a high schooler enjoying their summer vacation with a trip out to the field, a service professional that had time between calls, a business executive that was able to stop by prior to work, or even a parent that saw it as a opportunity to get their kids out the house, free parking and admission made it easy to do so. Regardless of whether or not one packs the affluence of Northern Virginia, add a $10-20 daily parking fee, and a simple trip to Redskins training camp is no longer a spontaneous and free outing.
One positive that has been an unexpected byproduct of the limited attendance at Redskins training camp is that it has become a more kid friendly experience. First off, unlike Ashburn, there is a ‘Kids Zone’ with an obstacle course, jungle gym, moon bounce, space to burn off a sugar rush, and an ice cream truck parked right by the zone entrance. Secondly, gone are the hordes of hecklers, and adults camped so close to the sidelines that it became impossible for anyone under 5′ to get a good view of the players, much less get an autograph.
Aside from that, it’s at the end of each practice when the fun begins. At the sound of the final horn to end practice, Redskins players point over to the sides-lines to invite kids onto the practice field to get autographs. Other players work the sidelines to chat it up with fans with a special focus on the children. In the end zone furthest from the practice facility, groups of kids gather as multiple players walk over to the area to escort young fans onto the field to get signatures, laugh with them, and even carry their helmets; up until the autograph seekers wander off to meet other players.
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