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NFL lockout: Small businesses begin to sweat

NFL lockout could mean smaller revenues for businesses that rely on training camps. NFL lockout would have to last seven more weeks to begin affecting training camp.

By Dave CampbellAP Sports Writer / June 13, 2011

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (right) throws as wide receiver Victor Cruz looks on during an unofficial football workout at Bergen Catholic High School, June 10, 2011, in Oradell, N.J. Fifteen NFL teams hold training camps in cities away from their own base, a boon to businesses in those cities. This year, the NFL lockout threatens those revenues.

Julio Cortez/AP

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MINNEAPOLIS – Jake's Stadium Pizza has been a fast-food fixture on the Minnesota State University campus for nearly four decades. This summer, they're cooking that thin crust with crossed fingers in Mankato, Minn.

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The NFL lockout, now headed toward its fourth month, is threatening a revenue-driving, profile-raising event for this small, family-owned business: Vikings training camp.

"We're hoping they get it done, because it's not just us. It's the whole state that will suffer," said Wally Boyer, the owner of the joint where players from Jim Marshall to John Randle have recuperated after many a draining workout. Fans, too, have long made that familiar walk down Stadium Road after watching practice to fill up and cool off.

If the work stoppage lingers long enough to keep teams holding traditional training camps, the hit would be felt far beyond Minnesota, and it wouldn't just be about losing money.

In upstate New York, the Jets have trained on the SUNY Cortland campus the last two years.

"Just their presence alone has stimulated people. It's just good for the mental health of the community," said Cortland State football coach Dan MacNeill. "For our people, it's been fun. It has impacted the football program. We don't have normal use of our facilities. But an NFL franchise, no matter where you go, there's a heck of a following."

Seventeen of the 32 NFL teams last year held training camp at their year-round facilities, reflecting a trend toward cost-and-time efficiency in an era in which chemistry is built and conditioning established well before the two-a-day grind in August.

But the other 15 teams still take their show on the road, many of them to slower-paced cities and small colleges where their presence is a big deal — and a big financial boon.

Some people make a summer vacation out of watching their favorite team run drills and scrimmages. Day-trippers at least stop for a bite to eat on the way out of town.

The Cardinals have held camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff since 1988, and the school's Rural Policy Institute estimated it brought $7 million to the local economy last year, with an overall impact of $10 million. There were over 38,000 visitors, 81 percent of those from out of town, along with 122 jobs created by the camp.