The New York Giants aren’t coming back to Albany this summer.
It’s sad news for the city that has exuberantly welcomed the football team with open arms for 16 of the past 17 summers. The three-time Super Bowl champions had only missed their summer training at the University at Albany campus once since 1996 — when the NFL lockout kept them away in 2011.
“UAlbany truly has been the summer home of the Giants,” Giants President and CEO John Mara and Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch said in a joint statement released Friday.
The Giants instead will train at the Timex Performance Center in East Rutherford, N.J., the team’s year-round headquarters. They informed Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and UAlbany Athletic Director Lee McElroy of the news earlier this week.
ESPN reported last year that multiple players had complained about the small mattresses and twin beds in the Freedom Quad dormitories, possibly the cause of several back injuries. Giants management, however, cited no reason for the team staying home this year. They plan to evaluate the “training camp situation” in the future and said it’s possible they could return to Albany.
“If the Giants moved back to Albany, it would only be if it made sense for both parties,” Mara and Tisch said.
McElroy said he understands the team’s desire to train at the Timex center, which he described as a state-of-the-art facility.
“We have enjoyed serving as the summer home of the New York Giants,” McElroy said in a news release. “The relationship has provided us with yet another avenue to promote our great university and what we feel is a first-class athletic program and group of student athletes.”
The team has trained at Albany more than at any other site in its 88-season history. Big Blue fans responded by turning out in droves to UAlbany’s four full-length grass fields, 80-yard field and stadium to watch the Giants practice kickoffs or get a football signed.
About 2,500 fans showed up each day for last year’s camp, which kicked off in July and lasted 19 days. Each camp averaged more than 33,000 fans dressed in red and blue per summer, and in 2009, a record 46,960 people showed up to watch the team train.
The school even offered special parking promotions to Giants devotees who planned to visit regularly during their stay.
“The University at Albany and the Capital Region have been great hosts for us during our training camps,” Mara and Tisch said in their statement. “We are grateful to Mayor Jennings and to Dr. McElroy and his staff in the athletic department for making us feel welcome and providing the resources we needed to prepare for the season.”
The mayor, in particular, was a big Giants fan and would show up at camp as often as possible.
“It has been a tremendous experience for our city to have the Giants here,” Jennings said in the statement. “We value our relationship with John Mara and Steve Tisch and their organization, and I have told them they are always welcome. This is Giants country, and we wish them nothing but the best.”
The Albany camps were also popular for field-side hijinks and romantic gestures. Last summer, punter Steve Weatherford walked over to a fan with a special football in his hand. He handed it to a man who then presented it to his girlfriend. On the football was the question, “Jacklene, will you marry me? Love, Bryan.”
She said yes, prompting applause and cheers from a few of the Big Blue players watching along with Weatherford.