Rams will no longer train at Western Illinois

Saturday, April 9, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams said Friday they no longer would hold summer training camps at Western Illinois University, opting instead to stage workouts in the convenience of their home turf.

The pullout from Macomb, Ill., ends the Rams' nine-year run in that 20,000-resident community about a three-hour drive from St. Louis.

"If we were going to go away for camp, Macomb would be the only consideration," Rams coach Mike Martz said in a statement. "They've treated us very well over the years, and I couldn't imagine a better environment away from our facility here.

"We just feel like at this time it would serve us better to be here."

The Rams said only that additional details about training-camp dates, practice times and fan information would be announced later.

A message was left with a Rams spokesman.

After moving to St. Louis, the Rams staged their initial training camp in 1995 at Maryville University in Chesterfield, Mo., then held workouts at Macomb every year through last season despite Martz's apparent worries about possible traffic wrecks on the mostly two-lane highway to the Illinois town.

Martz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that though there were no specific problems with training at Macomb, "the wear and tear of going up to Macomb and coming back does take its toll for the amount of time that you're up there." And players injured in Macomb often had to return to St. Louis for additional testing -- travel that would not be required with the Rams staying put, ostensibly expediting medical information about injuries.

"And trying to weigh the advantages of going up there with the disadvantages, it just seems that all things considered it'll work the best here," he said.

The news saddened Becky Paulsen, who as president of the Macomb Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Corp. said the Rams' workouts were "just a real cool thing for our community."

The football team was a tourist attraction, packing most of Macomb's roughly 600 hotel rooms for three weeks each of the past nine summers and generating additional revenue for restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses there.

Last summer, nearly 36,000 fans -- about half of them out-of-towners -- came to watch the Rams work out in Macomb, with an additional 14,000 checking out the team's scrimmage with the Chicago Bear, Paulsen said. Most years, she said, 28,000 to 35,000 fans turned out for the camp.

"It's been a lot of fun," Paulsen said. "We understand there's nothing specific about Macomb that made [the Rams] unhappy, but that it was a matter of convenience. We'll miss them."

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