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BOURBONNAIS (CBS) – Bourbonnais turns into “Bearbonnais” starting Friday as the Chicago Bears report to training camp first thing in the morning.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, it’s a big relief for a town that nearly lost training camp and all that money from interested tourists.
The Bears’ decorations were already up on Thursday and the sentiments among local residents and business owners.
“When they announced that training camp was gonna happen, of course everybody got very excited,” Bourbonnais mayor Paul Schore said.
Schore was also relieved after the NFL lockout nearly tackled Bears’ training camp in Bourbonnais.
“I wish we could have had all three-and-a-half weeks, but we’ll take what we can get,” he said. “But it’s a big bump to our economy here.”
Bears training camp is estimated to boost the local economy in Bourbonnais by $3 million to $4 million a year. It’s a boost business owners have come to rely on.
Restaurant owner Maria Verkler said her walk-in refrigerator is filled to the gills. She actually measures training camp business that way.
“Chicken wings are our biggest thing and we normally do about 7,000 a week,” she said, adding that during Bears training camp, that goes up to as much as 10,000 a week.
Bears training camp also brings 300 to 400 temporary jobs to Bourbonnais, for people like Mike Lyons, who is responsible for guarding a camp entrance.
While he wouldn’t be out of work without the Bears, he much prefers working at training camp than where he’d likely be working otherwise.
“If camp didn’t come, I’d probably have a job at, like, Wal-Mart or something like that,” Lyons said.
The Bears also help out at Olivet Nazarene University, where they hold training camp.
“Just with workers and stuff, they bring in a lot of extra help and stuff like that,” said Olivet Nazarene University coach Josh McDaniel. “It’s very exciting for them to finally make it here.”
Not every local welcomes the increased foot and car traffic during training camp. But for a few weeks, they can deal with it.