Bears training camp opening in Bourbonnais

July 29, 2011 (BOURBONNAIS, Ill.)

It's better late than never -- camp was scheduled to open last Friday, but the NFL lockout forced a delay. A settlement was reached earlier this week and the Bears are back.

Many players are already on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, and they're ready for the first practice Saturday afternoon.

So are fans. The Quality Inn and Suites is sold out this weekend, with some of the Bears faithful booking three-week blocks of rooms.

"As soon as they announced the lockout was over, people started calling, booking, this weekend, next weekend, during the week. People bring their kids all the way until school starts," said Olivia Mantas, Quality Inn and Suites manager.

The Jacobs family came to Bourbonnais all the way from Tennessee.

"My favorite player is Brian Urlacher of course, and just to get the chance and say hi to him, I just think that would be super cool," said Bears fan Patrick Jacobs. "And for my son who's 10 to get to meet him, I just think that would be very interesting."

At the Chicago Dough Company, where Bears memorabilia line the walls, extra staff has been added to feed the fans talking pigskin over pizza.

"Oh, I hope they make it to the Super Bowl," said Bears fan Jackie Speed. "I'm just hoping that, you know, they come on out. They do it, they get it done, and they win."

"I'm hoping good, hope they beat the Packers, and take it all the way," said Bears fan Jennifer King.

Because of the NFL lockout, training camp this year is about three weeks instead of four, though the influx of fans is still expected to pump $3 million into the Bourbonnais economy.

At the local MC Sports, all the Bears merchandise has been moved to the front of the store. You can even find the jerseys of recently traded Bears players, soon to be on clearance.

"We've had a lot today. Obviously, the start of training camp is today, so we've had people come in for jerseys and t-shirts and hats. We'll see more of it tonight and obviously tomorrow," said MC Sports Associate Manager Mike Wilson.

The Bears are holding their first practice Saturday and expect 10,000 or more fans. The population of Bourbonnais is about 19,000.

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