The Philadelphia Eagles recently announced their plans for 2019’s training camp open practices, or should I say open practice. The Birds are only going to hold one practice for this season that the public may attend, and it costs a $10 fee that will be donated to the Eagles Autism Challenge (though the $1.22 processing fee that Ticketmaster charges will go to Ticketmaster only). It would cost roughly $60 for a family of 5 after taxes.
Aside from the issue of now having to pay for admission, the removal of open practices year after year is absurd. According to Philadelphia Inquirer’s Zach Berman, the Eagles have reduced the number of open practices from four in 2013 to just one in 2019. There used to be about a dozen free open training camp practices to attend in the days when camp was held at Lehigh University.
The omission of these free events excludes Eagles fans who aren’t able to afford the pricey regular season games. There’s always a case to be made that fans could try and attend the much more affordable preseason games, but they’re typically filled with backups who play the vast majority of the time. In training camp, you’re able to see Carson Wentz throw to Alshon Jeffery in person. It’s a different experience entirely.
If you were one of the 60,000-70,000 fans that could grab the free tickets for two open practices last year, then you were lucky. Training camp practices were once a tradition to attend for some Eagles fans -- you would wake up early, drive to the nearest Wawa for road snacks, and hike up to Lehigh University. You would bring footballs, jerseys, hats, and of course, permanent markers hoping to meet some players and get some autographs. Since there was no formal stadium at Lehigh that the players practiced in, fans were able to get close enough that the players would sweat onto them.
At the Linc, it’s a different story. Only those with special connections can step onto the field, and it’s just another way to feel a bit excluded. For the die hard fans who can’t afford to attend games or simply can’t make it to one specific practice date, it can feel alienating, and overall, removing open practices is the best way to push them away.
Hopefully Jeffrey Lurie and the rest of the Eagles brass change their mind and add another open practice or two (and making one of them free for the lower income families to enjoy).