Just less than a month from now fans and players alike will be converging on the practice fields at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots first training camp held at the new state of the art stadium and surrounding facilities. With that ever-approaching July 23 deadline for the official opening of camp, in actuality many rookie and injured players generally report to training camp during the week prior to the veteran reporting date, some significant construction, destruction and preparation is taking place in order to ready the facilities for not only the players and staff, but also for the thousands of fans that turn out for the daily practice sessions.
One of biggest changes to the facilities involves the addition of bleachers for fans surrounding what will be the team's two training camp practice fields. Upon completion there will be seating for approximately 3,000 fans around the field, in addition to extensive standing room areas for fans.
The new extended bad-weather facility should aide Coach Bill Belichick's practices both in training camp and throughout the season. Should rain come during training camp, the team will use the artificial surface for the practices in order to preserve the natural grass on the camp fields. When completed, the new indoor field at Gillette will allow for normal, indoor practice sessions regardless of weather, allowing the team to do anything from kickoff and special teams work to two-minute drills. In recent years the team has been forced to travel to Boston College to use the school's bubble enclosure at Alumni Stadium late in the season to prepare for games.
Other more minor preparations that are being made for training camp include the expansion of the kitchen in the football operations level in order to support the more than 100 players and staff, the temporary conversion of a number of rooms within the stadium to provide players with rest and entertainment areas to utilize between practice sessions and the overall logistical planning to prepare for the traffic and activity that will hit Gillette Stadium on July 23.
The Patriots are just one of a growing trend of teams making the switch to their own facilities from college campuses. New England has held its annual summer camp at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I. since 1976 and prior to that had done much of its training at the University of Massachusetts. Other teams that hold training camp in their own facilities include the Browns, Texans, Jaguars and Redskins. Some teams also train at their regular season practice facilities, separate from their actual stadium.