Training Camp To Be Held In Philly, Not Lehigh

New regime, new site for training camp.

The Eagles announced Friday that they will hold training camp in Philadelphia this summer both at the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field, ending a 17-year run at Lehigh University.

According to the team, the new set-up will include a number of free, public practices at the Linc along with private practices by invitation only at NovaCare. Here is part of the press release announcing the change:

The Eagles become the 21st NFL team to move practices to their own facilities as the demands of practice make it more and more difficult to replicate what the teams have at their practice facilities.

The decision was a very difficult one for the entire organization, noted team president Don Smolenski.

“There are so many people at Lehigh University who went above and beyond to accommodate us and to make training camp a special place for fans to travel each summer to get an up-close look at the team.  We especially want to thank and recognize  Joe Sterrett, Dean of Athletics, who opened the doors for us 17 years ago and has been supportive every step of the way and Mary Kay Baker, Director of Conference and Special Housing Services, who was there for us on a daily basis to make sure everything ran smoothly. It’s people like them who made this such a difficult decision for us.

“The city of Bethlehem has been part of our lives every summer for the past 17 years.”

Andy Reid found value in bringing his team to the quiet hills of Bethlehem, believing that it promoted team bonding. The Eagles continued making the trek each summer as more and more teams around the NFL opted to stay at home. Chip Kelly is choosing a different, perhaps more modern, direction.

The number of teams going away for training camp is dwindling. Last year, only 13 of the  32 clubs held training camp on a college campus. In most cases, their own facilities are superior to the ones that they will find at the universities.

Kelly is big on efficiency and maximizing practice time. One issue with Lehigh is that their indoor facility is not conducive to holding true practices in. If it rains, the Eagles have been limited to walk-throughs. At the NovaCare, they can retreat to their bubble and hold a more meaningful practice.

The down side is that it is difficult to cultivate the same kind of fan-player intimacy found at Lehigh in this setting.

“The interaction with our fans during the training camp period remains a huge priority. As such, we are currently planning to utilize the opportunities available to us at Lincoln Financial Field to have a number of open practices (which will be free) available to all of our fans,” said Smolemski. “We’ll announce those specific plans in the coming weeks.”

This will be the first time that Eagles training camp has been in Philadelphia since 1943 when practice was held at St. Joseph’s University.

“Lehigh University has enjoyed hosting the Eagles training camp for the past 17 seasons on our campus and on our athletic fields,” said Lehigh Dean of Athletics Joe Sterrett. “We realize the Eagles are embarking upon a new era for their team and we wish Coach Kelly and the team all the best in the upcoming season.”