The Chicago Bears’ success should help Kankakee County this year.
Local officials anticipate this summer’s Bears training camp will soar in attendance after the Monsters of the Midway won the NFC North Division with a 12-4 record and made their first playoff appearance in eight years last Sunday.
That thought has somewhat taken the sting out of Sunday’s 16-15 loss to the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles that ended with a blocked field goal attempt by Bears kicker Cody Parkey.
“I personally think this loss left Bears fans hungry for more,” said Staci Wilken, executive director of the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I think we will see twice as many people at camp this year.”
Wilken said 39,450 people attended training camp last summer at Olivet Nazarene University. That had a $1,164,549 economic impact on Kankakee County, according to KCCVB calculations.
And, that was back when national media outlets pegged the Bears to finish last in the NFC North.
It was at a time when coach Matt Nagy was a relative unknown to casual football fans. It was before quarterback Mitch Trubisky progressed in his sophomore pro season.
It was before the Bears traded for star pass-rusher Khalil Mack, who had the second-most sold jersey this season behind Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, according to nflshop.com.
It was before football became relevant in Chicago once again. And if this year’s camp follows the trend of camps after the team’s 2007 Super Bowl and 2010 NFC championship appearances, it should be booming.
“When the team was doing very well 10 years ago, attendance at training camp was very high,” said Bourbonnais village administrator Mike Van Mill, who was executive director of the Kankakee County Economic Alliance at the time. “I would anticipate that to be the same this year. As a community, we should be able to take advantage of that this year.”
The Bears’ success couldn’t come at a better time for Kankakee County. For the past few years, local officials have used training camp to persuade businesses to set up shop near the recently opened Interstate 57 interchange at Bourbonnais Parkway.
That interchange and the future 1,200-acre business and industrial park that eventually will surround it has been slated as the future economic engine of the county.
And if more people attend this year’s camp, the area’s odds of attracting more businesses to the new interchange have to improve.
“This year, the Bears have a new interchange to get off of,” Bourbonnais Mayor Paul Schore said. “When things are moving with the team, people get excited, and they come out to training camp. I think we can double the attendance from last year. This is an exciting time for us and Bears fans.”