The Jets went to Cortland, N.Y. for the first time five years ago in a move to build team camaraderie under first-year head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan saw getting away from New York City’s bright lights and constant distractions as a good thing for a team needing to find its identity, and pastoral upstate New York certainly offered that opportunity.
In the fields and pastures of farm country, where dairy farms and apple groves dot the horizon surrounding the Jets practice fields at SUNY Cortland, the teamwork for a 9-7 Jets season and back-to-back AFC Championship game appearances was built. In 2011, they trained at their facility in New Jersey following a labor impasse that nearly threatened the season but they returned to upstate New York last year and again this year.
Now in what might well be their head coach’s final year with the team, the Jets need to think long-term about their future in Cortland and if a return in 2014 is forthcoming.
“I think it is a good thing for us up there, a real good thing to go up there and be away from the bright lights and the distractions,” kicker Nick Folk said. “[We can] focus on football, focus on each other [and] focus on coming together — get that winning mentality in August that you can turn to during the season when not everything goes your way.”
The team isn’t the only one benefiting from this relationship. From a bottom-line perspective, the Jets’ presence in the community has been a boon for the area and a welcome relief during the national recession.
In a report entitled “Jets Training Camp 2012: The Economic Impact on the Cortland Community,” SUNY Cortland professors study how the NFL team has generated revenue and business for the city. Professors Dr. Kathleen Burke, Department of Economics, Dr. Wendy Miller, Department of Geography, and Timothy Phillips, Department of Economics, showed that the team’s three weeks in upstate New York is beneficial to the area.
The numbers in the report say training camp attracted visitors from “36 different U.S. states and two Canadian provinces” and “generated over $5.5 million dollars in economic activity to the Cortland community.”
“The city of Cortland is honored that one of the few professional football franchises would choose to come here. It's a chance to show off our community, and it gives local residents — in particular, young kids — an opportunity to see their heroes up close,” Cortland mayor Brian Tobin told Metro. “Everyone is excited for their return.”
An estimated 35,000 fans are expected to have made the trip to training camp this year, including a number of them from outside the Cortland area. They bring with them out-of-state dollars from staying in the area’s hotels and dining locally at places such as Hairy Tony’s and Brix’s. It all provides a boost to the bottom line for an area that has not been immune from the recent recession.
But there is also an advantage to the SUNY campus which is benefiting the school far more than the notoriety the Jets bring.
“The partnership has been of tremendous benefit to SUNY Cortland,” said Frederic Pierce, public relations director at SUNY Cortland. “Every summer, the Jets provide more than 50 internships for our students in areas ranging from athletic training and sports marketing to communications and business economics. Additional internships with news organizations, emergency response teams, the college and many others are also generated by the camp.
“The agreement with the Jets gives the college advertising space in MetLife Stadium, special events with players and coaches and other marketing benefits that have dramatically increased SUNY Cortland's public profile. Student applications from New Jersey and the New York City area have increased since the team began holding summer practices here, and President Erik Bitterbaum attributes that to our relationship with the Jets.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.