CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When Greenbrier Sporting Club resident Gene Thompson moved to West Virginia in 1988 he never imagined his favorite NFL team would one day move with him, if only for a few weeks a summer.
Thompson, who was born and grew up in New Orleans, is ecstatic with the recent announcement that the New Orleans Saints will hold part of a their preseason camp at The Greenbrier, just a few short miles from Thompson’s home.
“I couldn’t have been any more excited when I heard about it,” Thompson told MetroNews recently. “My dad and I were at the first-ever Saints game and my dad was a season ticket holder until he died and I’ve been a Saints fan since I’ve been in 7th grade.”
Thompson said the Saints, like most NFL teams, have a loyal fan base and he predicted many will travel to the Greenbrier Valley to watch preseason practices in late July and early August.
“I know 50 people who are coming. Half of those are my family members,” he said. “There will be a lot of people who come up and watch the Saints practice, a lot of golfers. It will be bustling.”
Greenbrier owner Jim Justice is building three practice fields and a large multi-use building to house the Saints for at least the next three preseasons. Justice plans to take advantage of a tax credit offered in the revived Tourism Development Act.
Thompson, a self-ascribed transplanted West Virginian, said he can’t get over the news.
“I’m so excited I can’t stand it. It’s going to be great,” he predicted.