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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.

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In southern Minnesota, a 90-minute drive from the Twin Cities, Vikings training camp makes a $5 million impact on the region, said Anna Thill, president of the Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau. Last year, it drew 60,000 visitors from at least 30 states, and a few foreign countries.

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The university charges $7 for parking near the practice fields, but that's only part of the story. The school also receives tremendous exposure.

"They do bring people here, and young people are introduced to the campus. There's certainly a marketing value to the Vikings being here that is difficult to determine," said Michael Cooper, the university's media relations director.

Whether it's Westminster, Md., Anderson, Ind., or Spartanburg, S.C., the reflected glamour of having an NFLteam in town for a few weeks can go a long way.

"You can't put a price on it, to be honest. Newspaper articles go out every day that have Georgetown, Ky., as the dateline. It puts the community on the map," said John Simpson, executive director of the Georgetown/Scott County Tourism Commission. The Bengals train at Georgetown College, about 100 miles south of Cincinnati.

The Vikings' presence was enough to get Jake's Stadium Pizza a mention in Sports Illustrated once. Boyer said his business spikes about 20 percent during camp.

"It's a lot of frosting on the cake," he said.

Even some of the teams that don't train off site, like the Washington Redskins, make a mark on local economies. Visit Loudoun president Patrick Kaler said his group estimates a $600,000 impact to the Virginia county during camp alone.

"It brings in a lot of people who just drive in. They're staying in the hotels, they're going to restaurants, doing other things while they're here, so it's a big deal for us. That helps put us on the map," Kaler said. "How many people know where Loudoun County, Virginia, is?"

Start dates are staggered by team, but generally training camps begin the last week of July — seven weeks or so from now. There is plenty of time for NFL owners and players to reach an agreement by then, but teams and their hosts need some lead time to make arrangements.

For the Jets, early July is essentially the deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement in order to commit to Cortland for 2011. Team spokesman Bruce Speight said that's "an internal point of reference. There is some leeway, and it is subject to developments."