CHICAGO (CBS) — “Bear-Bonnais” shall be no more.
The Chicago Bears announced on Tuesday that the team will hold its entire training camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest beginning with the 2020 season – leaving Olivet Nazarene University behind after 18 years.
“We will host training camp practices at Halas Hall in 2020, while maintaining a public component to many of the sessions to incorporate our loyal and passionate fans,” Chicago Bears President & Chief Executive Officer Ted Phillips said in a news release. “Olivet Nazarene University continues to be a valued and committed partner, but with the recent investment in our campus expansion and state-of-the-art facilities in Lake Forest, we feel it is important to stay home for training camp. We would like to thank Olivet Nazarene University, including President John Bowling, and the Bourbonnais community for their 18 years of partnership and hospitality.”
The university said it has been a privilege hosting Bears training camp for 18 years, and said the team has kept Olivet-Nazarene fully informed of their plans to move camp to Halas Hall.
“The University has had a wonderful relationship with the Bears throughout these many years,” said Olivet President Dr. John Bowling, “We wish the team all the best as they make this transition.”
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported Tuesday night, locals and small business owners in Bourbonnais said they will have a really hard time saying goodbye.
Bourbonnais loves hosting the team, and local businesses said they’ll really miss the major boost.
For just under four of the year for these past 18, the typically quiet, sleepy downstate village wakes up in a big way.
“All the restaurants, everywhere, it comes alive,” said Tom Leone.
But it’s about more than drills and a closer look at favorite players to lifetime locals like Leone.
The thousands of fans that drop in for training camp drop big bills on Bourbonnais’ table.
“Very devastating for this area,” Leone said. “We need the Bears here to help bring in revenue.”
It amounts to millions of dollars every *summer – money that small businesses like the Brickstone Brewery will miss.
“It definitely brought a lot of people in,” said Morgan Zinanni of the Brickstone. “We will miss them, absolutely – not only just as Bears, but as the people they are.”
They’re not alone.
“We’ve been very lucky,” said Tim Gordon.
Gordon runs the Chicago Dough Company, right across the street from training camp.
“We had record turnout last year,” he said.
Gordon was looking at 18 years of memories, and the bright side in Bourbonnais.
“Maybe I’ll go on vacation now, because it was always a busy time of year for us – you know, we had all hands on deck,” he said.
Some in Bourbonnais said they will make the trip to training camp in Lake Forest, while others say they had their time and they are fans just the same
The Bears first signed a contract in 2001 to hold their training camp at Olivet Nazarene, and began using the facility there the following year.
Before that and going back to 1984, Bears held their training camp at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Prior to that, the team used Lake Forest College from 1975 to 1983, and St. Joseph’s College from 1944 to 1974.
The Bears will release more details about the 2020 training camp schedule and free public tickets in the spring.