- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2000

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue yesterday defended the Washington Redskins' decision to charge admission to training camp.

"[The question of fairness] is up to the fans," Tagliabue said at the owners' meeting in Baltimore. "If they think it's unfair, they won't come."

The Redskins announced Tuesday that they will charge $10 per person ages 13 and up, as well as $10 per car, at their new camp site at Redskin Park in Ashburn, Va. The Redskins are the only team in the NFL to require fans to pay to watch practice, which was reported yesterday in The Washington Times after a team-by-team survey of the league's 30 other franchises.

Tagliabue, in response to questions about the Redskins' decision, pointed to the more common practices of charging for parking at camp and for admission to scrimmages between teams.

"I don't think [charging] is new," Tagliabue said. "We have had some of that depending on the circumstances… . In some cases the proceeds go to charity. In some cases they go to defray costs. And in some cases, it's a crowd control factor… .

"Traditionally very few fans went to training camp or practices. I think the idea of fans going to practice is a positive development."

The charge to watch practice is the latest price increase from the Redskins. Since taking over the team last July, owner Dan Snyder has raised what already was the NFL's priciest ticket an average of 8 percent. Snyder raised lower bowl seats from $55 and $60 each to $75, parking at FedEx Field from $10 to $15 and most food items at the stadium by at least $1 each.

"Most Washington Redskins fans I've talked to think Dan Snyder has done a terrific job running the Washington Redskins," said Tagliabue, who has held season tickets to Redskins games.

Meanwhile, Redskins coach Norv Turner yesterday dismissed the idea that cost would deter fans from attending camp.

"I was getting a cup of coffee this morning and a woman said, 'Gosh, it's going to be $10 to get in for a person over 12?' " Turner said at Redskin Park. "I said, 'I guess that's what they have decided.' She said, 'Where do you get the tickets?' So based on her reaction, I think there's a lot of people who are going to want to come out here."

Redskins president Steve Baldacci who said during Tuesday's news conference, "We're probably one of the less expensive [camp tickets]… . There's a lot of other NFL teams that do this" yesterday declined another interview request. Team spokesman Karl Swanson reiterated Baldacci's statement that the Redskins' admission fee is a good value.

In other camp news, Turner said that the players' off day during camp has been moved from Sunday to Monday to accommodate spectators. Sunday morning will remain open for players wishing to attend church, but Sunday afternoon is expected to be one of the most-watched sessions each week.

Loudoun County has allowed the Redskins to sell 15,000 tickets to weekend sessions, but only 7,500 to weekday sessions.

Turner stressed, however, that none of the adjustments to camp or its schedule will compromise the players' training. He added, "Every consideration was made regarding football first."

Turner also felt confident that training in the area's heat and humidity, rather than the relatively cool weather of Frostburg, would help the players during the season.

"There's certain things you have to do from the trainer's [standpoint to compensate for the heat], but those are things we have to handle the first month of the season," Turner said. "I don't think we'll end up in the situation like we were [against] Dallas [in the 1999 opener], when it's our home field and we're not used to the heat and [several players cramped up]."

Turner also stressed that his practice regimen will not cater to fans. Last season much of the Redskins' success was attributed to players staying healthy, which was attributed to a less rigorous training camp. It has been suggested that spectators might grow bored with drills and expect more action for their admission fee.

"In a game you get to see Michael Westbrook thrown six or seven balls; in practice you'll get to see him run 30, 40 routes, matched up on Darrell Green," Turner said. "[Practice] is very physical. It is entertaining. And when real football fans walk away from practice, [they will have] a good appreciation for these guys and what they do."

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