The Capital City’s closest NFL team will soon be setting up a pre-season training camp for the second year in Jackson. The New Orleans Saints report for camp at Millsaps College July 25 to prepare for the upcoming football season.
Brit Katz, vice president for student life and dean of students at Millsaps was a principal administrator involved in the initial work with the Saints, as well as a very enthusiastic supporter of their training camp on the campus. “The New Orleans Saints and the Millsaps College teams are great partners.”
Katz explained that the college offers the franchise a site on which the players and coaches can reside in close quarters. “These residences are in close proximity to a community eating hall, the practice facilities, classrooms and training rooms, and to the City of Jackson. Jackson and Mississippi have been declared a ‘Saints region’ by the National Football League.”
Many Jacksonians and Mississippians are ardent Saints fans, and many of those fans enjoy coming to watch the Saints train. Katz said that in addition to the facilities provided to the Saints, the campus is surrounded by an attractive, high iron fence that provides initial protection for the Saints personnel and their effects.
In return, the college benefits from the presence of professional football. “The Saints attract thousands of fans and visitors to our beautiful, nationally ranked campus,” said Katz. “ Many of these fans are prospective students. When the Saints excite spectators to view their practices, they also enhance our student recruitment possibilities. In addition, the college gains wonderful new facilities to enjoy during the 10.5 months a year in which the Saints are elsewhere. We expect the development in 2007 of new air conditioning in our gymnasium, a new athletics and intramural playing field as well as a new laundry facility. The Saints have purchased new tables and chairs for their various classrooms; however, the tables and chairs will remain with the college for other uses.”
The economic impact of having a professional football team on campus has been great for Millsaps. According to Katz, a marketing company estimated the value of 2006 broadcast media publicity at $3.8 million. “I can personally attest to college alumni and supporters who contacted me from Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Texas to declare their excitement at seeing Millsaps College on the ESPN scroll or on other networks.”
Logistically, the Saints training camp is perfect for the college. “The presence of the Saints players, coaches and administrators is welcomed,” Katz said. “They appear from mid-July to mid-August in the summer when our student body and many faculty are away from campus. Further, the college’s buildings are available for use for conferences and camps. The timing for professional football training camps could not be better for Millsaps’ schedule. Moreover, our faculty, staff and students are admirers of the football team and we offer them genuine hospitality.”
Also happy to see the Saints at Millsaps is Tom Brown, general manager of the Cabot Lodge adjacent to Millsaps. “While the players stay on campus at Millsaps, we are fortunate to house their families, as well as the families of the coaches when they come to town.” Brown said that in addition to family members, guests of the hotel during the camp include agents, media and fans. “Last year, we had several season ticket holders from Louisiana come up during the camp,” said Brown. “Of course, last year we had a pre-season game that we won’t be having this year, but I still feel people will drive up to see the Saints train at Millsaps.” A long-suffering Saints fan himself, Brown said that since the team had a good season last year, he feels there will be increased interest in the team this year. “We haven’t seen an increase in bookings just yet, but again, they just made the announcement that the Saints were returning to Jackson to train. We feel that we’ll see an increase in room reservations in the near future.”
David Blackburn, president of Vivid Restaurant Concepts that owns Amerigo and Char in Jackson, said that having the Saints come to Jackson great exposure for the community and a great honor to be chosen above all the other great cities in the region. “Of course, it should have a nice economic impact, but most importantly, it’s the exposure the city gets and the accolades of being chosen that will help Jackson continue moving forward in the future.”
Hal White, co-owner of Hal & Mal’s, said that the camp had a very positive impact on the restaurant last year and he expects it to do the same this year. “People just liked to come in, hoping to see some of their favorite players. It was fun for everyone. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be the same this year. Having the camp here is a great thing for Jackson.”