Bengals end training camp in Georgetown

college hosted for 15 years

bfortune@herald-leader.comJanuary 21, 2012 

Fava's Restaurant owner Jeni Gruchow won't be featuring "Bengal Burgers" and "curly tiger tail" fries this summer.

The eatery on Main Street in Georgetown served those favorites in the summer when the Cincinnati Bengals were in town — but the Bengals will not hold training camp at Georgetown College in 2012, ending a 15-year tradition.

The National Football League team made the announcement in a news release Friday, attributing the change to new rules altering the logistics of pre-season practices.

"I knew it was coming," Gruchow said Friday, taking a quick break during the busy lunch hour. "It's something we've got to accept. We're not happy about it."

The Bengals' decision will have wide-ranging effects.

The city experienced economic boosts during the three weeks the Bengals were in town, said John Simpson, director of the Georgetown/ Scott County Tourism Commission.

"Our hotels got good business from the NFL officials and media and from fans, even people from other states and not even adjacent states who are Bengals fans," Simpson said.

The visitors spent money in local shops, restaurants and gas stations.

"I hate to see them go," Simpson said. "It won't be devastating, but anytime you lose an event like that it will have an impact."

Georgetown College's stadium, adjacent residential complex and Thomas & King Conference Center were built with the Bengals in mind, Simpson said. "All that wasn't built expressly and solely for the Bengals but knowing the Bengals would use it."

Plus, there was a fun atmosphere in the community during training camp, said Jim Allison, vice president for college relations. "We saw a lot of additional traffic through campus and around the athletic complex. The camp drew a lot of Bengal fans," Allison said. The team set aside special times to do meet-and-greets and sign autographs.

"We are, of course, disappointed," said Georgetown College President William H. Crouch Jr. "We have enjoyed hosting the summer camp since 1997 and believe it has been mutually beneficial. We are proud to have been the only NFL training facility ever in Kentucky. Fortunately, there will be other ways for us to work with the Bengals organization, and we look forward to those opportunities."

Bengals and Georgetown College officials met Thursday to discuss their relationship before making the announcement.

In Friday's press release, Bengals owner Mike Brown said the change was "nothing the Bengals or Georgetown College wanted to see happen, but it is the hand we are dealt, so we both have to adjust to it. I will miss going away for training camp very much, and I will especially miss our friends in Georgetown, Kentucky."

Speculation about the NFL club leaving Georgetown began last fall when the league's collective bargaining agreement limited the number of pre-season practices for each team.

In October, Brown noted that under the new rules, the team was practicing only once a day.

"And when you practice once a day, is it necessary to go away to training camp with dorms and all the stuff that you have?" Brown asked. "The purpose of the dorms is to give the players a chance to rest when you're practicing twice a day ... What you are seeing across the league is a tendency by teams to stay at their own location.

"The new agreement between the NFL and its players really impacts training camp by reducing practices."

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