WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice has convinced the New Orleans Saints to hold part of their preseason camp at famed resort. The Saints confirmed the agreement in a news release Thursday afternoon.
The announcement said the Saints, as it has since 2009, would continue to hold some practices in the New Orleans area with “popular training camp fan engagement enhancements including free parking and seating and open practices at the Saints facility in Metairie, La.”
Justice said the deal with the Saints is through 2016. He said the team plans to stay a month in White Sulphur Springs between their preseason games. He said admission to the practices would be free.
Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said the move to West Virginia would also benefit the team.
“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,” Loomis said in a prepared release. 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 practices 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.”
Exact locations and practice times in West Virginia will be announced at a later date.
Justice said he’ll build three practice fields and a 55,000 square foot multi-use building. He said the Saints players and staff will stay at the resort.
“We are very excited about this new opportunity with the New Orleans Saints, which will benefit all the people of West Virginia, bringing in tourism and new jobs,” Justice said in a prepared statement.
Saints coach Sean Payton said splitting time between the two locations would further enhance his team’s 2014 training camp.
“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.”
Since 2009, the New Orleans Saints Training Facility has been located in Metairie, La. Between 2006 and 2008, the Saints trained in Jackson, Ms. In the past, training camps for the Saints were also held in Thibodaux, La., La Crosse, Wis., Hammond, La., Vero Beach, Fl. and Bowling Green, Oh.
The training camp is one of three Greenbrier projects granted a possible ten year tax credit, worth $25 million total, with a bill the Legislature approved on the final day of the Regular Legislative Session.
That bill, the West Virginia Tourism Development Act, which includes the tax credit written specifically for The Greenbrier, has been sent to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.
Justice praised state leaders with helping make the deal happen.
“I want to particularly thank West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Senate President Kessler, Speaker of the House Miley, and all of the Legislature for their commitment in promoting tourism and tourism jobs,” Justice said.
In addition to the NFL training camp, the Greenbrier tax credit would be used against the corporate net income tax for a planned $90 million medical facility that was first announced in 2011. The third project reportedly includes several ski hills near The Greenbrier.
The total investment for the three projects is estimated at $400 million.
There is a sunset provision within the bill that would end the credit possibilities, unless extended, on Jan. 1, 2020.
The home field for the New Orleans Saints, the 2009 Super Bowl Champions, is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.