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Countdown begins for Steelers training camp at St. Vincent

| Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 11:08 a.m.
(Left) Charles Shirey and Steve Snider of St. Vincent College in Unity Twp. unravel a and hang a mesh fence on July 17, 2012 around the fields that will be used for Steelers Training Camp. (Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review)

For the 47th time, St. Vincent College near Latrobe is preparing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the thousands of fans who will descend on the campus when the team's training camp opens July 25.

College personnel have worked hard over the past several weeks to get the campus ready for what Sports Illustrated writer Peter King called the most fan-friendly National Football League training camp, St. Vincent President Brother Norman W. Hipps said Tuesday at a news conference at the Unity campus.

“We're partially responsible for this fan-friendly camp because we work in partnership with the Steelers organization. There is ... a long-term friendship between the Rooney family (Steelers owners), our (St. Vincent) archabbot and the Benedictine monks. There is collaborative effort with the Steelers offices, coaches, player personnel and public relations,” Hipps said.

To get ready for the Steelers and their legion of fans, St. Vincent is building a mile of fencing around the practice fields and walkways, said Larry Hendrick, facility management director. A staff of about 33 groundskeepers, custodians, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen have devoted about 1,000 manhours to get the campus ready for the team, including preparing the dorms and training rooms. Work began shortly after the college graduation in May.

Hendrick said the Steelers are in charge of getting the three natural grass practice fields in shape for the team.

“They will be down there every day at the field,” Hendrick said of the Steelers personnel.

To feed the Steelers while at camp, the college's dining services ordered 1,600 pounds each of beef and chicken, and 1,100 pounds of fish.

The Steelers do emphasize healthy eating, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, said Reggi Esmi, food services general manager. The college has added about 50 employees to serve the Steelers, Esmi said.

The food service also will provide food for an anticipated 10,000 fans on the weekends, Esmi said.

Hipps said he was not certain how much the preparations will cost. St. Vincent is reimbursed by the Steelers for the training camp costs, said Don Orlando, St. Vincent spokesman.

The college's summer theater will produce “The Chief,” a one-man play about Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. The performances at the Robert S. Carey Performing Arts Center will run from July 28 to Aug. 19.

“I remember fondly seeing him walk on campus, smoking a cigar, often showing up at our monastery Mass,” Hipps said of the longtime Steelers owner, who was beloved by players and fans.

An exhibit of 65 original lithographic and giclee prints from the private collection of Steelers Vice President Art Rooney Jr., a 1957 graduate of St. Vincent, will be displayed at St. Vincent Gallery from July 28 to Aug. 19. The works feature some of the most famous figures in Steelers history.

J oe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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