Bears moving training camp from Bourbonnais to Halas Hall
Keeping training camp at home will allow the Bears to use their typical locker-room, training-table, weight-room and rehab facilities, all of which were upgraded by recent construction.
The Bears are leaving Bourbonnais, their training-camp home for the last 18 years, for the considerable comforts of home.
The team announced Tuesday that, starting this year, it will move from Olivet Nazarene University to Lake Forest to train. The site will be the remodeled Halas Hall, which more than doubled in size when the Bears finished a 162,500-square-foot addition to the 143,000-square-foot facility last year.
Keeping training camp at home will allow the Bears to use their typical locker-room, training-table, weight-room and rehab facilities, all of which were upgraded by recent construction. The Bears added two fields to their complex, too, bringing the total to five to fit a 90-man roster. Players can sleep in their own beds, too, rather than in a dorm room.
Whether fans think they’re getting a similar upgrade is another question. They will be allowed to attend certain training-camp practices, the team said. The Bears will offer details about free practice tickets after their regular-season schedule is announced in April.
‘‘We will host training-camp practices at Halas Hall in 2020 while maintaining a public component to many of the sessions to incorporate our loyal and passionate fans,’’ president Ted Phillips said in a statement. ‘‘Olivet Nazarene University continues to be a valued and committed partner, but with the recent investment in our campus expansion and state-of-the-art facilities in Lake Forest, we feel it is important to stay home for training camp.’’
The Bears’ contract to practice at Olivet Nazarene allowed them the flexibility to leave. They had scaled back the number of open-to-the-public practices in Bourbonnais in recent years, a trend that began a decade or so earlier, when teams began building larger home bases and growing more wary of prying eyes. In 2000, all but 10 teams went away to camp; last year, only 12 did.
Staying home isn’t an entirely new concept. The Bears held training camp at Lake Forest College — where it eventually built the first version of Halas Hall — in 1975-83. They moved to the current Halas Hall site, about five miles west of the college, in 1997.
Bourbonnais Mayor Paul Schore said the Bears called him with the decision Tuesday morning. He suspected the team might leave soon but was surprised it happened this year.
‘‘It did an awful lot for our university, our county and for Olivet Nazarene University,’’ Schore said. ‘‘It was fun. It was a free activity for the area. I wished it would continue, but I realize most NFL teams are doing their camps at their own facilities now.
‘‘It was a business decision on the Bears’ part.’’
BEARS’ TRAINING-CAMP LOCATIONS
2002-19 — Bourbonnais
1984-2001 — Platteville, Wis.
1975-83 — Lake Forest
1944-74 —Rensselaer, Ind.
1935-43 — Delafield, Wis.
1933 — South Bend, Ind.
1930-32 — Chicago