BOURBONNAIS — The Bears and Olivet Nazarene University announced Monday to keep training camp in Bourbonnais for the next nine years.
The Bears moved training camp to ONU from Platteville, Wisc. in 2002.
“It seems like every year the camp has been better than the year before,” said Dr. John Bowling, president of ONU. “It will help us as we plan for the future.”
Bears general manager Phil Emery was in Bourbonnais in ’02 as an area scout, and this is his fourth year at ONU.
“The facilities are second to none,” he said.
Nineteen of 32 NFL teams hold training camp at their team facilities, but Emery said he appreciates getting the players away from home and being more accessible to fans.
“You can’t underestimate the fan contact."
As part of the extension, ONU will rebuild and re-sod the practice fields, double the size of the locker room and put more investment in things to help the fan experience.
On Sunday, a record 20,000 fans attended Bears practice. The new deal is still technically a year-by-year contract with an agreement to keep the Bears in Bourbonnais for nine years.