I love Training Camp. I’ve been going since they had camp in Fredonia and Jim Kelly offered to rearrange my face.
The Kick Is Good isn’t just Where Football Meets Funny–it’s also a place where fellow Bills Fans can get helpful and valuable Training Camp tips that you won’t find anywhere else…
Tip #1 Parking
You can’t park on the campus of St. John Fisher, but you can park in a satellite lot at a local High School and then take a bus to the campus for $1. The are NO roadside markings directing you to these lots. So bring a GPS, or print out directions from Google Maps to the two primary lots. You should also know where the overflow lot is BEFORE you leave.
IMPORTANT: Remember which lot you parked in. You’ll need to know this if you want to come home.
The GPS will also come in handy after practice, when you get to your car and find yourself in the pitch darkness of the Rochester countryside.
Tip #2: Bring Cash
The bus from the satellite lot to campus costs $1. It’s a fair price. If it makes you feel better, pretend the parking costs you $1 each and the bus ride is free. Either way you need to pay the $1 to get on the bus and it’s cash only. Nick Tahou’s also is cash only, so make sure you hit an ATM before you head out.
Tip #3: Print out a numerical roster at home
Here’s a nice one. Just click the # to sort it by player number and print it. (Don’t worry, I won’t tell your boss)
Tip #4: Leave most kids at home
Yep, I said it–if you want to enjoy yourself at Training Camp leave the kids at home. It’s not that I don’t like kids–it’s that I’m speaking from experience. I’ve brought my kids to Camp multiple times and it never ends well. Going to Training Camp is nothing like going to a preseason game, it’s more like going to Training Camp.
There’s no music, there’s no announcer, Conehead isn’t wandering the aisles selling lemonades and cracker jack, there’s no scoreboard with entertaining videos, and the players don’t sign autographs during their workouts no matter how many times you ask.
If you have a child that is REALLY into football and can sit in one place and watch football players do nothing but practice for 2 hours–sure, go ahead and bring them. But most kids get bored of Training Camp in about 5 minutes. Since there are no assigned seats, when you get up–you give up your seat and it’s a good 5-10 minute walk from any seat to the bathroom or concessions. There are bounce houses and such, but every minute your are watching your kid in the bounce house is one minute that you aren’t watching the practice that you came to see.
If you want to enjoy Training Camp bring some binoculars and leave the kids at home. You’ll have a MUCH better time if you go by yourself or with a friend. And if you want a memorable Bills experience with your little one(s)–take them to the Kids Day Preseason Game. The Bills do a great job keeping kids engaged for 3 hours and your kids will enjoy it exponentially more.
Tip #5: You “kind of” need tickets for the night practices
The daytime practices don’t require tickets, but the 5 night practices do. The distribution of those tickets used to be through Ticketmaster, but this year its a different yet to be announced system. I say you “kind of” need a ticket because every year I’ve gone to a night practice, I’ve seen people trying to get rid of extras. Is it a gamble? Yes. Do I think you’ll get in? Probably. Proceed at your own risk.
Tip #6: Where to sit
Before practice DON’T waste your time in the big tent. Sure there are free TOPS brand Oreos, but there are REAL Buffalo Bills Football Players on the other side of that tent. You can get fake Oreos all year long. You came to see the Bills practice and you should find a good seat.
Tip #7 Autographs
If you want to get an autograph at Training Camp, you’ll have the chance. You just have to be patient and you can’t be picky on which player. You need to have low expectations. The players do everything that they can to come up to the fences and sign autographs, but please remember that the players just went through a 3 hour Doug Marrone led practice, probably need 30-45 minutes of medical treatment, and probably have another 2 hours of film to watch that night.
If you’re going in with a $100 Official NFL Football that you just bought and are demanding that you HAVE to get EJ Manuel, CJ Spiller, Sammy Watkins AND Mario Williams autograph or else you’ll hate them and the Bills FOREVER–you are going to leave St. John Fisher disappointed.
Tip #8 Things to know when leaving
The first thing you should know is that the shuttles are scheduled to run for a little more than an hour after the end of practice. That should be plenty of time to try to get an autograph and check out the Bills Training Camp Store. If you want to buy something, try to make sure it says “2014 Bills Training Camp” on it. You can get a regular Bills shirt anywhere, and when the Bills are 10-6 you’ll want to rub it in everyone’s face that YOU were there from the start!
The second thing you should know is that the buses that bring you back to your car, pick you up in the same place that they dropped you off. BUT, you have to know which lot you parked in. (See Tip #1)
Tip #9: Where to eat
Don’t bother with the food at St. John Fisher. It smells like food from the Fair, it costs as much as food from the Fair, but it isn’t as good as food from the Fair. If you want Fair Food, go to the Fair.
If you’re in Rochester and you want to eat, you HAVE to get yourself a Garbage Plate. It’s the most delicious heart attack on a plate that you’ll ever eat. It’s Rochester’s most famous food and you owe it to yourself and the friend that you brought to go there. (Most kids will hate this part too)
There are 3 places that I consider acceptable to order a Garbage Plate:
The Downtown original:
320 W. Main St Rochester, NY
Open Monday-Saturday 8AM to 8PM. Closed Sunday.
The one I always went to:
2260 Lyell Ave Rochester NY
Way back when I would go there, it was an official Nick Tahou’s. Steve T. is an official cousin and now owns it. But the food and the “ambiance” are exactly the same. Plus it’s open 24/7.
A Garbage Plate is part of the Training Camp experience and is a MUST do if you’re heading to Rochester.
This is another great reason to bring a GPS.
Tip #10: Drive home safely
Take your time getting home. It won’t be any fun watching the 2014 season on a tiny TV from a hospital bed.