City officials expected that Colts training camp would bring roughly 50,000 people to Anderson, but they didn’t expect it would have happened already.
Chris Williams of Anderson University estimated on Wednesday that the campus had seen at least 50,000 visitors in the nine public practices the team has held thus far.
The number is a staggering jump from the fan attendance reported from Colts camp while it was hosted in Terre Haute.
Matt Sinclair of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology where the Terre Haute camp was hosted for the past 11 years, said average annual attendance during training camp hovered around 28,000.
With a week left to go, the Colts have already nearly doubled that number.
Williams said the estimate is based on parking figures for camp and a daily estimate taken at each practice.
Craig Kelley of the Indianapolis Colts was unwilling to estimate attendance so early, but said the surge in fans has not gone unnoticed.
“Suffice to say we are enjoying larger crowds than we have had before. It has been noticeable, and we are appreciative,” he said.
Williams said one of the banner days for Colts practice occurred last Saturday when the fans packed camp, bringing in record numbers.
“We had 8,500 people last Saturday for that particular practice and Macholtz stadium is designed to support 4,800,” Williams beamed. “They were all cheering and I’m sure that’s really exciting for the team.”
Although camp is drawing more fans, it certainly isn’t the most visited training camp in the NFL.
The Chicago Bears training camp draws an average of 120,000 fans each year, according to Tom Dillon, a spokesman for the team.
During the 20 days of open practice, Dillon said, the camp sees an average of 6,000 fans on weekdays and 10,000 fans on weekends and special practices. [Photo on right: Colts defensive tackle Fili Moala signs autographs for a large crowd after practice last Friday. Photo credit: John P. Cleary]
Dillon attributes the camp’s success to its proximity to the team’s home field. Bears training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., is just one hour south of Chicago.
“We’re located real close to Chicago so we get a lot of our hard-core fans,” Dillon said.
Moving Colts camp to Anderson gives the team the same proximity to its own fan base.
The Tennessee Titans, on the other hand, see 15,000 fans during their 18 to 19 days of practice, according to Jarred Puffer, a spokesman for the team.
Numbers aside, Williams said the camp has been a success for everyone involved.
“Our desire is that we’re helping enable the team to prepare for the regular season. We want the camp to be a success for them, a success for the city of Anderson, and a success for Anderson University.”
—Brandi Watters is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.