Saturday, May 15, 2010

Oxnard welcomes back Dallas Cowboys

By Scott Hadly

During his team’s final training camp practice in Oxnard two years ago, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones expressed his desire to bring his team back to Oxnard for training camp some day.

Jones’ dream became reality on Friday when the Cowboys officially announced that they will spend two weeks of their 2010 training camp in Oxnard.

The team will open training camp on July 24 in San Antonio, and work out at the Alamodome through Aug. 6.

They will then play two exhibition games, the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals, after which they will go to Dallas to train for a few days before Aug. 12 contest against the Oakland Raiders at Cowboys Stadium.

The team will travel to Oxnard on Aug. 13 and hold its first practice at the fields at River Ridge on Aug. 14.

The team will spend two weeks in Oxnard, playing a preseason game at San Diego in the middle of their California stay. They will break camp on Aug. 27. “We are very excited about this training camp schedule,” Jones said. “Spending two weeks in both San Antonio and Southern California gives us the opportunity to reach out to the very strong fan followings that the organization enjoys in two traditional training camp homes for the Cowboys.

“We have always received tremendous receptions and hospitality from the fans and community leaders in both San Antonio and Oxnard.”

Oxnard General Services Superintendent Michael Henderson said the city is thrilled to be hosting the Cowboys for the sixth time.

“It’s as exciting this time around, as it was the first time they came,” Henderson said. “It’s such a popular thing not just for the residents of Oxnard, who are very excited about it, but for most of the people in Southern California.

“Coming out and seeing the Cowboys is a real treat for fans.”

Because the team will only train here for two weeks, fans will only have one weekend where they can take in a practice.

That figures to make the first two days very popular dates for fans to target.

“We really have to be geared up to have a lot of people come in and see practice that weekend,” Henderson said. “Since it’s the only weekend, we could draw close to 20,000 people.”

In 2008, the first day of camp drew close to 18,000 fans.

“We were jam packed, but it was fun to have that many people coming to see them.”

The Cowboys reached out to the city in early February about the possibility of returning this year, and that began a dialogue between the two parties that culminated with Friday’s announcement.

Rich Dalrymple, director of public relations for the Cowboys, said exposure to the Los Angeles media market has always been a great benefit to the organization, both from a visibility standpoint and the fact there is a tremendous population base in Southern California to get interested in the team.

“Having a split camp is a little unique, but we have never minded doing things a little differently,” Dalrymple said. “We think this split camp is best of both worlds.

“It breaks up into two halves a training camp that would be a week longer than normal (because they have an extra exhibition game). We are confident the change of venue and scenery will help break up the monotony of the training camp process.”

Kyle Kanny, superintendent at River Ridge Golf Course, has been preparing the River Ridge fields since the Oakland Raiders trained there in the 1980s.

While there were years where Kanny admits he and is staff struggled to get the fields in order, this year has been a lot easier.

That’s because after the Cowboys left in 2008, Kanny rolled the dice by killing off all the cold weather grass on the field and allowing the warmer weather Bermuda grass to take control.

“It’s done that nicely, and now the field is 95 percent hybrid Bermuda which will provide a much better surface (than previous years),” Kanny said.

“The last time they were here I was apprehensive about how the fields would handle the situation, but this year I am not. The fields will present nicely, and provide a superior playing surface.”

When the Cowboys initially contacted the city about returning, Henderson said the team talked about the possibility of making it a multi-year deal, but as of right now, they have only committed to this year.

If that changes, Henderson said the city would welcome hosting the team in future years.

“It’s a very comfortable situation on both sides,” Henderson said. “They have same people we have dealt with in the past and it’s the same on our end.

“We all know what we need to do to get things ready for them. We’re looking forward to having them back.”