The New York Jets have landed in Cortland, and the road to the Super Bowl might just pass through the Finger Lakes! For the second consecutive year, the SUNY Cortland campus will host the New York Jets training camp. The first practice is scheduled for Monday, August 2, and admission is free.
Visitors are treated to a close-up view of NFL players and coaches as they prepare for the season with drills and scrimmages. Fans of all ages take part in interactive “Generation Jets Fest” activities and shop at the Jets Store.
What’s more, the public is afforded an opportunity to get player autographs – a particular highlight of the camp. Sessions take place at the end of both the morning and afternoon practices. The best spot is in the front row behind the bench, on whichever field is in use that day, as players will move up and down the sideline. Different positions sign autographs at a particular time each day; for example, running backs could sign in the morning, defensive linemen in the afternoon, and so on. Last year, quarterback Mark Sanchez signed after every practice session.
In 2009, the Jets moved their training camp to the Finger Lakes because the tranquil location met first-year coach Rex Ryan’s criteria for an ideal site. The Jets responded with an 11-8 season that ended just one game short of the Super Bowl. Team leadership feels that one key to building upon that success is maintaining continuity in the pre-season training regimen.
Jets CEO Woody Johnson said, “The school and surrounding community are gracious hosts, and we look forward to continuing our relationship.” The team has entered into a three-year agreement with SUNY Cortland, with the option to extend to five years. The training camp, which attracted more than 34,000 spectators to the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex last August, generated more than $4.26 million in economic activity in Cortland County.
New York Governor David Paterson said, “I am confident that the road to the Super Bowl will go through the same college town this season, garnering it the attention it deserves. Central New York is a beautiful region and I am thrilled we can show it off to football fans and their families alike.”
SUNY Cortland has long been associated with both strong education and sports programs. Many students benefit from internships with the Jets, an opportunity to expand their knowledge of sports management. “As a campus, we pride ourselves on preparing champions in the classroom, on the playing fields and as graduates who make a difference in the lives of others,” said college President Erik Bitterbaum.
Fans love the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex, a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose athletic facility. The main field features Sprinturf – an all-weather, soft fiber synthetic turf – and provides main grandstand seating for 6,500. A second adjacent turf field has seating for 1,500 spectators. Both grandstands are linked by a common walkway, with concession areas and restrooms beneath.
SUNY Cortland will spend about $320,000 to create a grass practice field, renovate a residence hall for coaches and upgrade the Student Union for use by the Jets. New York State’s Empire State Development will assist by providing SUNY Cortland with grants totaling up to $575,000, disbursed over a five-year period.
A visit to the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex to get a firsthand look at the New York Jets is an exciting event for kids and grown-ups alike. And, should the Jets win the Super Bowl, a proud Finger Lakes college will have helped make it happen!
Practice schedule: www.cortlandsports.org/jets or www.newyorkjets.com/training_camp/schedule.
Parking: The Lankler Avenue parking lot (fee) is at 3707 Route 281, Cortland, NY 13045.
Autographs: Best spot is in the front row, behind the bench. Bring a marker, and arrive early.
Exhibition Game: The largest crowd shows up for the inter-squad exhibition game. Last year, it was not held in the stadium but on a practice field, so visibility was poor. If this happens again, skip the game.
Dining: Football fans love Central City Bar and Grill (off Main Street at 17 Central Ave.), Hairy Tony’s (102 Main St. near the Post Office), or Gator’s (83 Owego St.).
Lodging: The closest is Country Inn and Suites (3707 Route 281), the newest is Hope Lake Lodge and Indoor Waterpark (take Owego Street/Route 215 south; follow signs to Greek Peak Mountain Resort).
Sunscreen and hats: There is not much shade, so don’t forget!
by Kristian S. Reynolds