NFL lockout puts Eagles camp at Lehigh in doubt

Philadelphia Eagles tackle Winston Justice (74)blocks defensive end Brandon Graham during the morning session of NFL football training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010.

June 29, 2011 2:59:06 PM PDT
Despite recent words of optimism surrounding NFL lockout talks, it is unclear if the Eagles will hold a training camp at Lehigh University.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and players' union chief DeMaurice Smith have been holding a series of secrete meetings which, in past labor disputes, have been key to ending the disagreements.

However, there is still no end to the lockout and that uncertainty has a lot of folks on edge in the Lehigh Valley.

"I think everyone needs to get their big-boy pants on, swallow their pride and get this done," said Kelly Oswald, manager of Starter's Pub near the university.

Over the years, this has become a popular hang-out for members of the team who come to relax and eat during down time.

As you would imagine, that attracts a whole lot of business.

"People do get excited and they do ask, every year. They get excited they anticipate them coming in," Oswald said. "It is a pretty big thing for us and the area."

Starter's Pub is just one of the many businesses that would lose out on the 20,000 to 30,000 Eagles fans who make the annual summertime pilgrimmage to Bethlehem.

Mayor John Callahan says Eagles Camp pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.

More than that, he says, you can't buy that kind of exposure.

"Getting daily reports on Eagles training camp in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and all of the various media outlets that use Bethlehem as a byline is the kind of exposures that any community would love," said Mayor Callahan.

The Eagles have not set a cut-off date with Lehigh University, but time is running out. In fact other NFL teams, including the Jets and the Ravens, have already cancelled their plans for off-site training camps.

"Despite everything that's going on, both sides are committed to trying to make a training camp work here," said Steve Lomangino, the sports media director for Lehigh University.

So, for now, they'll keep laying down the sod, and sprucing up the sports complex at Lehigh University.

But most importantly, they're keeping the faith.