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Inside the NFL

Cowboys to Set Up Camp in Oxnard

NFL team will return to the Southland for summer training, conducting drills at the Raiders' old site.

October 25, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

The Dallas Cowboys on Friday announced they had reached a multiyear agreement to move their training camp to Oxnard, beginning next summer.

The move marks a return to the Los Angeles area by the Cowboys, who conducted training camp for 27 years at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks before moving the summer operation to Texas in 1990, a year after Jerry Jones bought the team.

Jones, a onetime believer that the Cowboys had to train in ultra-hot conditions to better prepare for the season, now prefers the milder climate of Oxnard for his players.

"A lot of the decision has to do with Bill Parcells," he said of the Cowboy coach. "He thinks a lot like Tom Landry thought, that you can get more reps in when it's cooler and you can play your way into shape. Bill's philosophy has had a big influence on this."

There are many other practical reasons for the Cowboys to conduct their summer session in the nation's second-largest market, one that has been without an NFL team since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season.

"We have a large fan base there, and the area has such a great Hispanic fan base," Jones said. "That fits what the Cowboys want to do.... Right now, [the NFL doesn't] have a team in L.A., and that makes it more appealing to us. The visibility, the media, everything plays into it."

Jones said there's a "good possibility" his team will spend part of camp training with the Oakland Raiders, as the Cowboys have done in the past, or with the San Diego Chargers, who last summer moved their training camp from La Jolla to Carson.

But Jones was less bullish on the prospect of staging an exhibition game in Los Angeles. Exhibition games generate so much revenue, NFL teams are reluctant to sacrifice home dates. For the Cowboys to play one in L.A., they probably would insist on being the visitors and probably would be playing a team that doesn't have a good stadium deal and therefore would be more willing to give up an opportunity to play in its home market.

"I doubt that would work, but we'll sure take a look at it," Jones said.

The NFL is interested in returning to L.A. and is weighing the merits of stadium proposals at the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum and in Carson. But the Cowboys' decision to move training camp to the area is unrelated to the interest in putting a franchise here, a league spokesman said.

"The decision on where to hold training camp belongs strictly to the team," said Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations. "The Cowboys have held training camps in the L.A. area for many years."

The camp will take place at the Marriott Residence Inn in Oxnard, where the Cowboys spent a portion of their 2001 training camp, and the players will stay on site. The location, next to River Ridge Golf Course, has two full-size football fields and other amenities. The start date has yet to be set, and the deal must be approved by the Oxnard City Council, which will take up the matter within two weeks.

The Raiders held their training camp at the same site in Oxnard before moving back to Oakland. Their training camps were closed to the public, and team officials draped the surrounding fences with black tarps.

But when the Cowboys spent two weeks there in 2001, they erected bleachers so thousands of fans could watch for free. Their camp also included many Cowboy-related attractions, including interactive football games, souvenir booths, play areas for children and concession stands. A team spokesman said future training camps will include those things, plus a traveling Cowboy museum.

The Cowboys, whose training sessions are traditionally open to the public, have conducted their last two camps at the Alamodome in San Antonio. According to the Cowboys, their training camps and scrimmages drew an average of 100,000 fans a summer during the years the camps took place in Texas.

Edmund Sotelo, Oxnard's city manager, said off-and-on discussions with the Cowboys began about six months ago, but things didn't get serious until the last two weeks.

"This means a lot of public attention for the city," he said. "We have a lot of elated Cowboys fans here."

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