As the Indianapolis Colts vice president of marketing, Stephanie Pemberton understands having an open training camp helps grow a fan base.
That’s one reason why Pemberton, a Westfield resident, is delighted to see the Colts return to Grand Park after a one-year absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are one of the few teams in the NFL that has stayed committed to having an open training camp for our fans,” Pemberton said July 15 at the Westfield Chamber of Commerce at The Bridgewater Club. “That’s because ownership and general manager Chris Ballard believe that is really an opportunity to provide an amazing experience and build fans in our community. We work hard to make sure this is free and open to the public at every practice. We’re excited to be back after a year off after COVID.”
Camp, which begins July 28 and ends Aug. 24, is a week longer at Grand Park this year. Face masks are optional.
“We will have a seating option for those who prefer to be around folks with masks,” Pemberton said. “We’re excited to bring back a normal fan experience.”
A new turf field will be used as a kids interactive zone, the Play 60 field, featuring football drills, 40-yard dash and punt returns. Play 60 is a nutrition and exercise program. Colts City includes a Colts Pro Ship, inflatables, a social tent and Colts in Motion, the team’s interactive traveling experience.
“If you’ve been at Colts camp before, you’ll remember the practice fields were separate from the fan experience area,” Pemberton said. “This year, we are excited to be able to bring everything together in one spot. So, Colts City and the Play 60 zone will be right there by the bleachers. We are hoping that will make an even better experience for everybody and much more experience.”
With NFL guidelines because of the COVID-19 protocols, players can’t sign autographs.
“There is a 20-foot barrier that has to be in place at all times,” Pemberton said. “We are exploring other ways to be creative with maybe some autograph opportunities. We’re hoping that is a one-year thing and we will be back to fully normal next year.”
There are morning, afternoon and weekend practices. Pemberton said morning practice are a little lighter, attendance-wise, if a work group wants to come.
Pemberton said with so many visitors, Colts camp is an ideal opportunity to showcase Westfield and all it has to offer.
There are 15 themed days with special activities and giveaways, with Kids Day July 31 being the most popular. There will be two joint practices with the Carolina Panthers Aug. 12 and 13. The teams play a preseason game Aug. 15 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
There are still volunteer opportunities available for training camp. For more, visit westfieldwelcome.com. Nonprofits or youth leagues also can work the Colts Pro Shop to raise funds.
Although free, mobile tickets are required, so attendees must register for tickets at colts.com/camp. A clear bag policy is in place similar to Colts games. To learn more about practice times and theme days, visit colts.com.