WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Residents in White Sulphur Springs gave a big welcome to the New Orleans Saints when they arrived for training camp Thursday evening. For the next three weeks the Saints will be at The Greenbrier Resort’s new AdvoCare Sports Performance Center.
“We’re ready, man. We’re ready to go,” Jim Justice, the owner of The Greenbrier Resort, said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “Everybody here’s excited. I think our state, we ought to be out of our minds to think about having an NFL team here.”
The community showed its excitement by turning out at the airport when the Saints arrived and then lined the streets of White Sulphur Springs for parade. Saints owner Tom Benson was among those in the parade.
The Saints are after for a fifth playoff appearance this season under the direction of Head Coach Sean Payton who opted for the road trip to White Sulphur Springs. It marks the first time the Saints have hit the road for camp since 2008.
Coach Payton has said the Greenbrier Valley “offers a tremendous opportunity to our team in a more moderate summer climate.”
Justice said he talked with Payton on Wednesday morning. “You’ve got to be able to tell what good timber is and this guy’s got his act together. He’s an organizer. He’s meticulous beyond belief. He’s eaten up with enthusiasm and passion,” Justice said.
“I can’t stand people around me that are sticks in the mud, but this guy is anything but that and he’s a winner.”
The 55,000 square foot training facility, along with three practice fields, did not exist at The Greenbrier Resort just more than 130 days ago when the New Orleans Saints first announced plans to come to West Virginia for training camp.
In all, the cost to build a place for the Saints — on a deadline — is closing in on an estimated $30 million.
Justice said the rapid build would not have been possible without the tax credits the Legislature approved, earlier this year, in the Tourism Development Act. “We all run out of money. That’s just all there is to it. We all run out of money,” Justice said when asked about the credits. “We’ve got to feel like, at least, that somebody else is helping us pull the rope.”
All training camp workouts for the Saints are open to the public.
Following a bus tour of Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs on Wednesday evening and strength and conditioning tests on Thursday, team members were scheduled to begin on-field workouts in a non-padded practice session on Friday from 8:50-11:40 a.m. with a walk through from 4:30-5:30 p.m.
A “Picnic with the Saints” will be held Saturday. Tickets for that event are $10.
In all, there will 20 practices for the Saints, including a scrimmage on Aug. 2. The team will be at The Greenbrier through Aug. 14 before returning to Louisiana to complete pre-season camp. A full training schedule is available here.
When the Saints are not at The Greenbrier, the practice facility will be available for other uses. Justice said work is underway to possibly bring teams from West Virginia University, Marshall University and Virginia Tech — among others — to White Sulphur Springs in the coming years.