Steelers rain delay: Wet weather pushes back St. Vincent's early prep for training camp
While wet weather has delayed by a few days the early set-up of the 48th annual Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, officials at St. Vincent College in Unity began planning for the event shortly after spring commencement in June.
Larry Hendrick, director of facility management, said crews plan to work during the weekend to make up for the last few days of rain.
“The weather has us behind maybe a day or two,” he said, adding that most of the rental equipment should arrive on campus by the end of the week, including more than a mile of temporary fencing, dozens of tents and 25 portable toilets.
While a detailed schedule has not been released, the first practice on July 27 at St. Vincent's Chuck Noll Field is from 3 to 5 p.m., the time for all the other public practices, according to the team website.
The annual Steelers celebration at Latrobe Memorial Stadium is slated for 7 p.m. Aug. 2.
For the first time in about five years, the Steelers will also open an evening practice from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at Noll Field.
St. Vincent alumni will be able to bring high school juniors and seniors who are prospective St. Vincent students to the evening practice to register to win field-side passes.
The Rev. Paul Taylor, the college's executive vice president, said he hopes that will enable even more fans to join the nearly 10,000 training camp visitors expected each year.
Some of the fan experience will change as amenities are moved closer to the parking area to help alleviate traffic and pedestrian congestion, Hendrick said.
The Steelers Experience, including interactive games for fans, and the Great Hall memorabilia trailer will move closer to the parking lot, Hendrick said.
“We're moving some things around to have better access,” he said.
The relocation is expected to help pedestrian congestion caused when the team members had to walk to and from the field to the campus buildings, said Public Safety Director Steve Brown.
“The fans would be stuck,” he said. “Now there won't be any conflict like that.”
A new gravel lane will help cars traverse the temporary field parking lot, which can hold between 1,000 and 3,000 cars.
Hendrick said the addition of more carnival food will add to the “festive” atmosphere.
Catering director Julia Molnar-Bish said as the concessions move closer to the parking lot, more golf-cart transportation and preparation will be necessary.
About 50 seasonal workers are hired by the college to help run the camp, including in dining services, which serves up 1,600 pounds of beef and chicken, 1,100 pounds of fish, 1,200 pounds of cheese, 160 gallons of orange juice and 1,500 pounds of fresh vegetables.
Executive chef Dan Keeley said he works with the Steelers nutritionist in May to plan meals, and everything is labeled with nutrition content.
“If they need to maintain weight, they can see the calories and they know if they're overweight” where to cut back, he said.
Steelers team members eat fewer desserts and more fruit than students, but also enjoy outdoor grilled barbecue daily, including “Fred Flinstone”-sized shortribs, Keeley said.
Molnar-Bish said she likes the increased activity on campus, even with the ramped up preparation.
“It's a different energy on campus,” she said. “It's a complete switching of gears for us.”
Benedictine Brother Norman Hipps, president of St. Vincent, recalled last year's campus production of “The Chief” when “Mean” Joe Greene was in audience and was asked his reaction after seeing it for the first time.
“All he did was touch his heart,” Hipps said. “And I swear I saw a little tear coming down his cheek.”
Taylor said he likes to see the team members do their jobs during the camp, adding that offensive lineman Ramon Foster is a personal favorite.
“It's interesting to watch the new players incorporate into the team and watch them work hard to make the team,” Taylor said.
When training camp visitors stroll to the basilica or monastery, it shows the blending of different facets of the Benedictine liberal arts college and the diverse opportunities there, Taylor said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.