Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


March 26, 2014

Training camp: Greenbrier growing again

— — The Greenbrier is growing again — and that’s good news for West Virginia. It was announced just last week that The Greenbrier will now serve as the new training camp home of the New Orleans Saints.

Jim Justice, the owner of The Greenbrier, is putting between $20 million to $25 million into the new pro-football training grounds at the popular West Virginia resort.

The additions will include two natural grass practice fields and one synthetic field that are being built at the resort, in addition to a 55,000-square-foot building with kitchen and dining facilities, meeting rooms, weight and locker rooms, training and physical therapy accommodations. Justice says he hopes to have the new training grounds ready for the Saints camp in July.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton says the move will keep the pro-football team training at The Greenbrier at least through 2016. In explaining the move, Payton said West Virginia offers a cooler climate, as the team splits training camps with  Metairie, La.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a new tourism bill and investment tax credit into law last week that will offer The Greenbrier a break on some new sales tax from the Saints camp. The tourism bill provides a separate carve-out for The Greenbrier’s proposed medical institute, the Associated Press reported last week. The medical center breaks on corporate income tax could total up to $25 million over 10 years. The $86 million facility is expected to open next year. Justice is hoping to draw top doctors for professional athletes to the facility.

Justice estimates the Saints will train at the resort from July 18 to Aug. 16. So the NFL team will be spending a lot of time in the Mountain State. Admission to the training camp for the general public will be free. And considering that West Virginia doesn’t have a pro-football team, the training camp will be a great addition for football fans across the region. It should also boost ongoing tourism efforts at The Greenbrier, also home to The Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour.

And it was golf that apparently helped to bring a pro-football team to West Virginia. Payton caddied for pro golfer Ryan Palmer at the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic last year. That led to early discussions between Justice and Payton about the possibility of bringing the Saints to the Mountain State.

The Greenbrier also features a hotel, casino, spa and a once-secret underground bunker built for Congress in the event of a nuclear attack.

Justice, who ranks 362nd on Forbes magazine’s list of the country’s wealthiest people, purchased the popular resort out of bankruptcy in 2009 for $20.1 million. The resort in White Sulphur Springs dates all the way back to 1778.

The pro-football training camp should be another great addition to The Greenbrier. It is our hope that football fans across the region will travel to The Greenbrier this summer to see Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints as they prepare for their upcoming NFL season.

The new NFL training camp has the potential to provide a tremendous tourism boost to the state, as well as our region, considering the close proximity of the popular resort to area hotels and motels.


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