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St. Vincent gets ready for July 26 kickoff of 49th annual Steelers training camp

| Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 11:03 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Devin Bradock of Thomas' Pro Turf Industries in Republic (left) and Aaron Rammela of the Pittsburgh Steeler paint the yard markers onto Chuck Noll Field at St. Vncent College to prepare for the 49th annual Steelers training camp on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

Rick Redeker has been marking the calendar for his annual treks to Steelers training camp at St. Vincent College for decades.

“To give you an idea how long it's been, my first season ticket cost $88,” said Redeker, 59, an employee benefits specialist from Irwin.

This year will be no exception.

“I'll be there (July) 26,” he said on Tuesday before St. Vincent officials announced the 49th annual Steelers training camp would begin with players reporting to the Unity campus on July 25.

Against the backdrop of Chuck Noll Field, where grounds crews were preparing to mark off yard lines, Benedictine Brother Norman Hipps, the college's president, said he couldn't help but think of the former coach, who died on June 13.

“We remember him in our prayers and are proud to have our field named in his honor,” he said.

The first training camp since Noll's death will see a return to a tradition he started three decades ago.

Pending league approval, the Steelers will be joined by the Buffalo Bills for two practice sessions on Aug. 13 and 14 at St. Vincent. The Steelers will break camp and play a preseason game against Buffalo in Pittsburgh on Aug. 16.

The Steelers plan to visit the Bill's training camp at St. John Fisher College outside Rochester in 2015.

Under Noll, the Steelers held joint practices with the Washington Redskins in the 1980s.

Should the Bills stay on campus, it will double the demands on the kitchen staff, said Reggie Esmi, general manager of St. Vincent's dining services.

The 220 dinners the school normally serves each night will climb to 400 to 460, he said. St. Vincent is working on a contingency plan to expand the size of the dining room and increase the speed of service, Esmi said.

To feed the Steelers during their three-week camp, St. Vincent has ordered 2,000 pounds of beef, 10,032 boneless chicken breasts, 1,300 pounds of haddock, 1,200 pounds of cheese, 1,360 turkey burgers, 432 pounds of buffalo burgers and 5,800 individual servings of ice cream novelties and frozen confections.

School officials hope to learn next week if the league approves of the joint-practice plan.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Fred M. Rogers Center, and St. Vincent has added a neighborhood trolley to provide shuttle service around campus, Hipps said.

Estimating the size of the crowds that flock to training camp each year is as difficult as watching some vintage Steelers losses to Dallas or Oakland, school officials said. Admission and parking are free, and there is no single entrance gate.

But St. Vincent has braced for about 100,000 or so of the Steelers faithful for the past several years.

Redeker knows what the start of camp means to the Steelers Nation.

“I travel for work and was in Montana,” he said. “I always have a Steelers hat or some other piece of Steelers clothing on ... some guy comes up to me and wants to know about camp, how the top prospects look.”

It was the same in Albuquerque.

“They all want to know about camp,” he said.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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