NFL training camps have opened, but for fans of the New York Giants, there's a bit of a culture shock to be had this year.
After renting space from the University at Albany 16 of the last 17 years, the Giants decided to move their training camp closer to home, to the Timex Performance Center in East Rutherford, NJ. The team opened the Timex Center 2 years ago after a lockout cut the pre-season short. In the team's defense, it's all about economics, saving on travel expenses by centralizing pre-season operations, rather than outsourcing, which is what they did by going to Albany.
It hurts Albany as the Giants' departure takes away revenue streams from the city and the university, but are there enough fans, given the economic climate, willing to drive to New Jersey to see their heroes work out? Good question, but I don't have an answer.
The Giants being gone is a benefit to Saratoga Race Course, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It's also meant to be a benefit to the other summer sports teams as well. Aside from the obvious (Tri City Valleycats), there are the teams that are flying under the radar, such as the Troy Fighting Irish, a semi-pro football team which plays its home games in Schenectady, even though their former home base, Troy High, has had their refurbished field in place for 2 years now. It's one of those things I'll never figure out. Meanwhile, the Albany Dutchmen of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League are enjoying their best season since joining the league, but they don't get the same kind of press as the Valleycats. And theirs is a shorter season.
Speaking of short seasons, the NY Sportimes of World Team Tennis played most of their home matches at UAlbany's SEFCU Arena this year, but the Sportimes failed to make the playoffs. WTT has by far the shortest season of any pro sports league. Blink, you'll miss it, because it's over in 3 weeks. Only die hard tennis fans lured by the promise of some of the top pros, past or present, appearing at the arena, are willing to pay the coin to attend the matches, since the ticket prices are also the highest of any summer sport.
In a couple of weeks, Joe Average Fan will be watching Giants pre-season games as if nothing had happened. It was that way before the Giants came to Albany, and it'll be that way now. Will they return to Albany? I doubt it. After all, their new building is meant to take a licking and keep on ticking........