Monday, July 26, 2010

A Fan's Guide to Patriots Training Camp 2010

Are you ready for some football? With the battered and bruised Red Sox (Black and Blue Sox would be a truer nickname) in a mid-summer swoon, I'm certainly ready.

The boys of autumn will be strapping on the pads as training camp for the New England Patriots begins on Thursday, July 29 and runs through mid-August. Here are some tips to make your trip to Patriots training camp more enjoyable:

Where: Patriots training camp is held on the practice fields next to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Schedule: The tentative schedule calls for two-a-day practices for the opening days of training camp with practices from 9:30 to 11:15 AM and 3:45 to 5:30 PM from July 29 to August 4. (Note that only a 9:30 AM practice is scheduled on Monday, August 2 that is open to the public. The team is scheduled to hold a practice inside Gillette Stadium for season ticketholders on August 2 at 7 PM.)

Based on past years, you can lay good odds that the schedule is going to change (either that or Coach Belichick is really going to work these guys from the get go). The schedule is always tentative based on the desires of the coaching staff and oftentimes the weather. Therefore, if you're interested in going to see practice, by all means check the schedule on the Patriots web site and double-check it by calling the team's hot line at 508-549-0001.

Parking: The practice is free to attend, and the parking is free as well. (Yes, I said it, "Free.") Parking is along the west side of the stadium, and it's a short walk over to the fields. From US 1, enter the parking lots at P8 from the south and P6 from the north. Lots open an hour before each practice.

Seating: There are bleachers along the side of one practice field on which to sit. Another popular spot is on the hillside that lies behind the end zones of the practice fields and in front of the stadium. Wherever you sit, you're pretty close to the action. If you have a camera with a good zoom lens, you should get some good shots.

Food and Drink: There are concession stands that sell food, drinks, and beer. Be prepared to pay normal stadium prices for food and beverages, however, if you buy it there. Adjoining Patriot Place has plenty of restaurants and bars where you can get a meal, too. (For a good, cheap meal, I highly recommend Five Guys Burgers at Patriot Place.)

For the Kids: Along the west side of the stadium during Training Camp is the Patriots Experience, filled with interactive games that allow young fans to test their kicking, passing, and tackling skills on a variety of obstacle courses, football tosses, and other similar challenges. It's a popular draw for families. (All fans participating in Patriots Experience must sign a waiver form, available at training camp or online at the Patriots web site.) Note that the hours for the Patriots Experience are not the same as the practice schedule; so check the web site. (In general, the hours are usually 11-4.) Kids will also enjoy all the interactive exhibits at the Hall at Patriot Place. Even if you don't have kids, a visit to this museum dedicated to the Patriots franchise is an absolute must for Pats fans.

Scoring Autographs: The players enter and leave the field near the hillside, so it's a good spot to get autographs, and a designated group of players, which rotates from practice to practice, will often sign along the front row of the bleachers when practice is over.

With as many as 80 players on the field, plenty of new faces, and uniforms without names on the back, it may be tough knowing who you are watching, so print out a roster from the Patriots web site before you go or pick up a complimentary roster from the Patriots Football Weekly tent.

For more tips on enhancing your experience at Patriots Training Camp--and for all the information you'd ever want to know about spectator sports around Boston--check out The Die-Hard Sports Fan's Guide to Boston.

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