The Associated Press
In this July 4, 2013, file photo, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton carries the flag for golfer Ryan Palmer on the eighth hole during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic PGA tour golf tournament at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The Saints announced Thursday that the team will split their 2014 training camp between the team's practice facility in Metarie, La., and The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The New Orleans Saints announced Thursday they would split their 2014 training camp between the team's practice facility in Louisiana and The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs.According to a news release posted on the Saints' website, team officials discussed the option to split training sites several times before deciding to take advantage of West Virginia's summer weather."We feel like this decision will allow our team to best prepare for our 2014 season by practicing at our facility and also taking advantage of a more moderate climate and setting in West Virginia, similar to what we did in 2009 when we went to Southern California for a week," said Mickey Loomis, executive vice president and general manager of the New Orleans Saints."I have always been a proponent of mixing up training camp every few years which I believe is a good strategy as we prepare for the season. With this plan, we get the best of both and that is important. We get quality practice in both locations and we get the benefits of having our fans support us during our time at home in Metairie and we get the opportunity for our team to unite at a location away from home."
According to The Greenbrier, the facility will include three practice fields -- two natural and one with synthetic turf -- and a 50,000 square-foot multi-purpose building. The building will house meeting rooms, weight rooms, lockers, training and physical therapy facilities, and kitchen and dining. Construction is expected to cost upwards of $20 million.Rumors swirled on social media throughout the week, as resort owner Jim Justice hinted at a new development that would be a gamechanger. A bill passed the Legislature last week that would give the resort up to $25 million in tax breaks for a resort-style medical facility.The resort also hosts the Greenbrier Classic, a PGA TOUR, FedEx Cup event. Kara Dense, executive director with the Greenbrier Vally Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said the area is gearing up for a busy summer."It looks like the training camp will be toward the end of July into August and the Classic is toward the beginning of July so they'll have a huge summer," Dense said of the resort.Greenbrier County's tourism industry continues to grow. Dense said the county brought in $243 million in 2012, making the county fifth in the state in terms of economic impact from tourism. Dense said only counties with racetracks and casinos ranked higher. This year could be even bigger for the area."Tourism definitely has a huge impact in our area, just from the national press this story is getting already," Dense said. "It's going to be everywhere and people are talking positively about The Greenbrier. The golf tournament has had such a huge impact."Saints head coach Sean Payton caddied at the Greenbrier Classic last summer. He said in a statement the resort has a lot to offer his team."We all understand the importance of training camp and ultimately that's to get the team ready for the regular season," Payton said. "As far as the time we will spend at The Greenbrier, it offers a tremendous opportunity to our team in a more moderate summer climate."The resort also has much to offer friends and family who may tag along with the team. The Greenbrier consists of more than 10,000 acres that includes four golf courses, indoor and outdoor tennis facilities, a 40,000 square-foot spa, sporting activities, shops and the grand hotel. Billionaire Jim Justice purchased the resort in 2009 and it has undergone a $250 million restoration since then.The Greenbrier may soon see more growth. The medical facility is about 15 months from completion, but Justice said the center and other investments will create 1,000 jobs in the area. The resort-style facility is part of about $400 million in projects Justice has planned for the resort.In the past, the Saints have trained in Jackson, Miss., Thibodaux, La,, La Crosse, Wis., Hammond, La., Vero Beach,Fla., and Bowling Green, Ohio. Since 2009, the team has trained in Metairie, La., just outside of New Orleans. The team won the Super Bowl in 2010.
The West Virginia Tourism Development Act, which grants the tax break to the resort, was passed in the last hours of the regular session. The bill is awaiting action from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM. ;
Check charlestondailymail.com later today for a full story.