October 6, 2009
Jets camp a boon to Cortland
College, city gain national exposure as decision on return expected soon
SUNY Cortland hopes to hear by early November if the New York Jets will return next summer for preseason training camp.
The college says its economic study of the three-week camp last summer should be public by the end of this week or sometime next week.
But overall, the camp brought good things to Cortland County, three speakers said Monday at a meeting of the American Association of University Women.
College spokesman Pete Koryzno, retired city Police Chief James Nichols and Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented their perspectives on the camp’s impact.
Monday’s meeting at the Cortland Elks Club marked the 45th anniversary of the AAUW chapter to the day, Koryzno told the 30 people in attendance.
The Jets held training camp from July 30 to Aug. 21, choosing a more isolated location than their New Jersey training facility or Hofstra University, where they had held camp for 40 years.
Nichols said law enforcement agencies did not know what to expect from the camp but used the annual Cortaca Jug football game between SUNY Cortland and Ithaca College as a model.
City police were needed less than expected, Nichols said, as patrol officers paid overtime to direct traffic or patrol downtown were not needed after a few days.
“There were worries about traffic, and people coming to town and causing problems, but there were no problems,” Nichols said. “It was a positive experience. The only bad day was the Green and White Scrimmage, when we were caught by surprise that 6,000 people decided to come to Cortland.”
The scrimmage at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex’s grass field, which was built by the Jets, attracted 6,100 spectators, causing traffic to back up on Route 281.
Nichols said traffic and parking for the scrimmage will be a focus as the community plans for next summer, if the Jets return.
“The Cortland Police Department spent $7,748 in overtime, mostly covering traffic issues,” Nichols said. “The college reimbursed the city $3,544. So that was probably the best $3,900 the police department has spent in many, many years.”
Nichols, who retired in August after 40 years with the police department, said the entire camp caused city and college to work together in ways they had not before.
“The college and the community struggle to find a positive working relationship,” he said. “This was the culmination of all these years the college and the community grew closer together.”
Nichols said concerns about whether the state Department of Transportation would finish repaving of Port Watson and Tompkins streets, Clinton Avenue and Route 281 proved unfounded.
“The community pulled this off,” Nichols said.
Koryzno said the college’s administration and staff scrambled to prepare for the camp after having the Jets visit campus on March 15 and having the team choose SUNY Cortland in April. He said every aspect of camp had a campus expert assigned to it, as the college and the team worked on details for almost three months.
The college continues to receive benefits from the Jets, such as a pair of Super Bowl tickets to raffle off as a fundraiser, which is expected to raise $47,000 for the Cortland Fund; an electronic strip across scoreboards at Giants Stadium that advertise the college during Jets games; and messages on the Jets Web site that list SUNY Cortland as their official university partner.
Koryzno said two admissions events are scheduled for the indoor field at the Jets’ training facility at Florham Park, N.J., this semester and next spring. They will be designed to attract New Jersey students to the college, along with students from the New York City area.
He said the news media covering the camp brought the college national publicity it could never purchase, and provided about 50 internships and practica for students, and a venue for alumni relations events.
Dempsey said the city and county created a Web site that informed visitors about hotels, restaurants and things to do in Cortland. When an audience member asked if businesses benefited, Dempsey said he could speak only for the hospitality industry in the county, which saw a 12 percent increase in business over its normal summer season.
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