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The Chicago Bears have a lack-of-fans problem at training camp

The Bears are now holding training camp at their headquarters in Lake Forest, Illinois, but the fan experience has had some hiccups so far.

A view from the fans perspective at Halas Hall.
Pic courtesy of @TJStarman

The atmosphere at Halas Hall was always going to be different than it was when the Chicago Bears held training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. In Bourbonnais there was no limit to the number of fans they allowed to watch the team practice — it is a college campus with plenty of room — but their facilities in Lake Forest, while state-of-the-art for the team and players, simply can’t accommodate the same volume of spectators. The reported plan was to allow about a thousand fans through the gates for each practice, but that hasn’t been happening.

Tickets are still free, but the team limited them to one set of four per request, and each person was only approved for one date. What I did, is I’m sure what many fans did, and that was to apply for several dates in hopes I would be fortunate enough to get one. With only one shot, it’s logical to try for as many days as possible then try to work out the logistics if you get picked, but not everyone was going to be free the day the Bears gave them.

So what about the countless tickets the Bears gave out that went to fans that can’t make it to Lake Forest? Transferring them is possible, but that may be too much a hassle for people.

How is the energy at Halas Hall so far?

Many of those tickets are going unused and the crowds at camp have been sparse, which leads to low energy when compared to the buzz that was at Bourbonnais from 2002 to 2019 and Platteville, Wisconsin before that.

“The vibe, however, was pretty dull,” writes NBC Sports’ Adam Hoge about Thursday’s practice.

Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush Tweeted that the “crowd at Bears Camp day 3 (today) is stunningly small, maybe a few hundred if that.”

Head coach Matt Nagy went over to the crowd this morning and asked for “a little juice today,” but take a look at that picture above. How are the few hundred in attendance supposed to give the players any energy from that far away?

I have my doubts about the Bears actually wanting fans to watch them practice, but if they do, then the current system for tickets is horrible. Limiting tickets is a necessity due to space, but with no financial commitment from fans there’s nothing to hold them to their dates. Life happens, so being approved for a random date doesn’t always fit into our schedule.

So what are the Bears options?

The Bears could just let fans show up for the shuttle bus service and take them over to Halas Hall on a first come, first serve basis, but you still might get fans that don’t want to risk a drive to get shut out and sent home.

Charging for tickets would allow fans to pick their dates and plan accordingly, and the investment would make it less likely for them to blow off the dates, but then practice just turns into a money grab and training camp has always been a free and fun experience.

I shared some thoughts on Twitter and I think we’ve found the perfect solution with some help from from @DCluch40 and @ChiCitySlooper.

The Bears should charge a fee for tickets, let’s say $20 bucks a pop, and still limit fans to four per transaction and one date per fan. But that $20 would just be a deposit that you get returned to you when you check in at Halas Hall. You still might get some no-shows, but money tends to commit most people, and proceeds from any unused tickets can go to Bears Care, which is the charitable arm of the Chicago Bears.

It seems like a win-win to me.

The team will get closer to their thousand fan attendance to create a buzz for the players, the fans still get their fun and free experience, and the Bears will make some money for charity.

What other ideas do you guys have for how the Bears can make camp more assessable for fans?

Also, if you have tickets and can’t go, then transfer your tickets to someone who can.