By Peter Schwartz
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To quote a song by Bon Jovi, “Who says you can’t go home?”
Jets fans on Long Island are hoping that Woody Johnson, John Idzik and Rex Ryan will be singing that tune next summer while driving over the George Washington Bridge for training camp.
Could Long Island, once again, become the Jets’ summer home?
It’s very possible. As first reported by Newsday, the Jets contacted Farmingdale State College and made a preliminary visit to the campus to take a look at the facilities. A Jets spokesperson confirmed the visit but also said that Farmingdale was one of several options for the team.
One of those options remains SUNY Cortland, but its contract with the team will expire after this year’s training camp. The Jets would become, in essence, “free agents” and will look around to see what is best for the franchise. It’s clear that they are considering a return to Long Island, and that is certainly music to the ears of Jets fans.
Talks, however, are in the early stages.
“While we would love to have the Jets here, there are a number of issues that obviously need to be worked out,” said Patrick Calabria, vice president for institutional advancement at Farmingdale State College. “We would be excited to have it happen. … We need to understand what they want.”
Some of those issues include parking, food services and space. If they can be worked out, it’s very possible that Republic Airport won’t be the only place on Route 110 with a runway. The Jets’ season could very well take off from Farmingdale State, and that would be great for both the college and the community.
“We would love it,” Calabria said. “I think the merchants in the area would love this.”
It’s safe to say that all Jets fans in the Tri-State area would approve. Crowds for practices at SUNY Cortland pale in comparison to what the Jets were accustomed to when they had training camp at Hofstra University.
A return to Long Island would certainly give the Jets a bigger audience for their workouts.
“I think that part of the motivation in wanting to come to Long Island is that’s where the fan base is,” said Calabria, who is a Jets fan.
During their visit, the Jets took a peek at Farmingdale’s facilities, including the field on which they would practice. The Jets would have to determine whether there would be enough room for the demands of training camp.
That doesn’t appear to be an issue.
“We believe we have the space to accommodate what we believe are their needs,” Calabria said. “They’ve been out here. I think they believe we can accommodate the space that would be needed for football.”
Although Farmingdale State does not have a football team, they have a highly successfully Division III athletics program, which notably includes their baseball team and women’s soccer team.
But the school has another competition on its hands as it tries to wrestle Jets camp away from Cortland. Ironically, Farmingdale State and Cortland will meet in men’s basketball on November 21, which could be a grudge match of some sort if the training camp situation is decided by then.
It’s certainly fair to say that Farmingdale State has a real shot at landing the Jets.
An NFL team needs to feel at home if it travels away from its own facility for training camp. The Jets had to have liked what they saw during their visit to Farmingdale.
“We have terrific athletic facilities, some of which would rival a Division I school,” said Calabria.
Many of you that are not familiar with Long Island might be wondering the exact location of Farmingdale State College. Well, it’s a lot closer to many of you than Cortland! In fact, it’s less than 12 miles east of the Jets’ former training camp home at Hofstra.
Located on Route 110, Farmingdale State College is centrally located. It’s actually in Suffolk County but is just minutes away from the Nassau-Suffolk border. The college is close to the Long Island Expressway, Northern State Parkway and Southern State Parkway.
I think Jets head coach Rex Ryan would be impressed with the facilities. And I also think Farmingdale State gives him a great option for one of his traditional team outings. The Adventureland amusement park is across the street from Farmingdale State.
As far as housing is concerned, Farmingdale State has plenty of dorms, including a fairly new section that is about four or five years old.
Training camp on Long Island would clearly be more convenient for Jets fans, but it also has to make sense for the Jets. While their visit was preliminary in nature, it seemed to go well.
“I think they liked Farmingdale very much,” Calabria said. “What’s not to like? We have a beautiful campus. From a space point of view we can accommodate them. We’re excited about the possibility but we certainly do not want to get ahead and put the cart before the horse.”
As the Jets wind down their current training camp up in Cortland, their timetable for determining their future home is not certain. But common sense would dictate that they would like to make a decision sometime in the near future.
“They have a season that they need to focus on and we’re really just waiting to hear back from them on what their thoughts are,” Calabria said.
When the Jets left Hofstra after training camp in 2008, many in the area were devastated. Attending practices over the summer was very popular for the fan base and, very often, the crowds were large.
As the Jets go through the process of making a decision, perhaps they could get swayed on August 21, when they have a scheduled family night practice at Hofstra. While many of the crowds up in Cortland have been sparse, it would be reasonable to assume that there could be a gathering in the five-figure range that night on Long Island.
That could very well be a check mark in the Farmingdale State College column. But again, the process is in the preliminary stage, and the Jets will likely want to visit the campus a few more times.
“If we have a good couple of dates, maybe there’s a marriage,” Calabria said.
That would be a wedding that thousands of Jets fans would love to attend.
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