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Posted: 6:20 p.m.
The Bengals and Georgetown College are continuing their marriage of convenience for at least another year with Monday's announcement that they've extended their training camp agreement to 2007.
While making the announcement at a luncheon sponsored by the Georgetown/Scott County Chamber of Commerce, head coach Marvin Lewis told the capacity crowd of 200 that he continues to be drawn to campus because of the proximity of dorms, meeting rooms, and fields. He also whetted appetites by saying quarterback Carson Palmer could play in the Aug. 13 preseason opener.
Meanwhile, Stacey Varney, head of the school's conference center, said the college has already sold out the corporate tent for this year's Aug. 4 intrasquad scrimmage while also adding new Cincinnati companies to the sponsorship list for other dates.
Even though the two-week stay marks the Bengals' shortest stint at Georgetown since they arrived in 1997, Varney thinks they can break the attendance record that has been set the past three years. The school has already added a second fireworks night, with Monday, Aug. 7, joining Wednesday, Aug. 2.
"When you look at it, there are only about three fewer dates than last year," Varney said. "And this is the first playoff team we've had. If you go by the corporate interest, yes, I think we have a good chance to break the record."
Among the new Cincinnati companies under the tent this summer are the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and General Electric Aviation. The college keeps the parking and corporate revenue but since it's just trying to break even, Varney says the value for the school is being associated with the Bengals and the NFL.
"I know it helps in football recruiting and even though we don't have numbers, I would think it's a reason we're up in everything like applications and enrollment," Varney said. "And it obviously helps the town. We love those days with 9 a.m. practices and 7 p.m. practices because a lot of people stay around town and eat and shop and get to visit."
When the Bengals arrive this year on July 29, they'll find that the lower practice field has been re-sodded, as well as parts of the main field in Toyota Stadium. By '07, Toyota could be outfitted with a synthetic surface.
"We're doing that on our own with private donations," Varney said. "But it's obviously something that would appeal to the Bengals."
Both sides prefer the flexibility of one-year deals, Varney said, in a business that can change pretty quickly. The trend in this decade has been for teams to stay at home for training camp because they have such state of the art facilities to handle what they couldn't 10 to 15 years ago.
The Bengals have everything in place to hold a camp at Paul Brown Stadium, so making a move would depend more on a philosophical change rather than the addition of one or two major items.
The schedule would have to change because players would be lodged away from the site in hotels and the club would have to rotate enough around the grass practice fields so they can also hold up for the regular season.
It's doubtful that stands would be brought in for the practice fields, but they would obviously be available when the team worked in the stadium.
But Lewis and Bengals president Mike Brown both like the idea of getting away, at least early in camp. Plus, Brown has a warm relationship with school president Bill Crouch and as Lewis noted in his remarks Monday, Georgetown is a straight shot from Cincinnati on the interstate.
Lewis is the biggest figure in the Bengals' resurgence in Georgetown as one of the school's most effective sales people.
"Everyone knows how good Marvin is," Varney said. "He's so approachable and very interested in us. He's always trying to help us with the sponsors and reaching out."
On Saturday, Lewis said Palmer would "most likely" be practicing when camp opens July 29. On Monday, he told the locals he hasn't ruled out Palmer staring the Aug. 13 preseason opener against the Redskins at PBS.
Palmer is another reason the Bengals could be on their way to setting a camp attendance record. His appearance as he comes back from reconstructive knee surgery would coincide with the first camp opener at night and on a Saturday.