Have you ever wanted to go to Dallas Cowboys training camp?
Are you planning on going but you’ve never been?
For those of you who were like me (before yesterday, that is) and no idea on what to expect or what to do when you go there, I’m here to lend a helping hand.
Today’s post will be dedicated to you, the fan, who may be making the trip out to Oxnard for the first time or has not been in a while as things often change.
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Let’s start with the logistics.
The Cowboys practice facility is located right off of the River Ridge Golf Course in Oxnard.
If you’re staying in a hotel, there is a Residence Inn approximately five minutes away from where they practice, however it can get quite expensive as depending on the day it can run you around $250 per night.
I would recommend finding a place off the Pacific Coast Highway. Not only is it cheaper (Inn on the Beach in Ventura is no more than $200 per night. Cliff House Inn up the coast a bit is around $170 per night.), but the views of the Pacific Ocean are breathtaking. For the extra 10-15 minutes of a drive, the money saved and the view from your room is totally worth it.
Getting into the facility is pretty easy. You will either pay $20 for general parking or $40 for VIP parking (more on that later). This year, since practice is at 4:00 PM PST, the gates open around 12:30 PM. I highly recommend getting there as the gates open, not because it gets packed (because it really doesn’t), but because I presume the reason you’re there is to get a good spot to see the Cowboys practice.
Absolutely no outside food or drinks are allowed but it’s for a good reason as all concessions go to supporting local school sports teams. The options are reasonable as drinks range from $2 to $5 and food is anywhere from $3 to $7, again cash only.
If you want “field access” to see practice, that will cost you another $20 for a Cowboys United membership. There is a booth just outside the entry into the complex to fill out the necessary info which can take about 10-15 minutes, depending on the line. I cannot stress enough how absolutely foolish it would be to not splurge on this.
For one, the membership is good for an entire year and there are coupons and pre-sale e-mails you will get. For another, you get some decent schwag with your $20.00. Included is a goodie bag that contains a car flag, vinyl decal, plastic license plate frame and a nylon drawstring backpack.
The most important thing it gets you though is the field access. Once you get into the facility, there will be a slightly overpriced gift shop with some cool stuff. I would suggest passing on that, as you probably have enough gear and it detracts from the main reason for you being here.
That leads us to the main event.
As I said before, the gates to the facility open at 12:30 PM but access to the field does not usually open until 2:30 PM. It is beyond wise to head directly to this line and wait it out. Even though I did not know this during my first trip yesterday, I was still able to get a spot along the fence but it was one of the worst spots available.
On the flip side, depending on what is more important to you, earlier access to the field will either get you a prime spot to watch practice or a better area for getting autographs. There are three other areas of which to watch practice.
For free, you can sit in either of two bleacher areas which is okay, but not anything of an experience.
For $100, you can have a spot along the entry to see the players as the come in and out of the field.
The last area is for VIP’s, usually designated by the city or other special people that rarely would include anyone considered part of the general public.
None of these are worth the bang for the buck that the $20 field access gets you.
Depending on which field you choose to post up will also determine what you see. If you choose the field that does not have the hydraulic blue lifts behind the goal posts, you’re not seeing much of practice, but you will see individual drills by either the offense or defense and definitely the special teams.
Lastly, there is the end of practice.
Regardless if you pay the $20 for field access or the $100 for the entry way, your chances of getting an autograph are pretty much equal. After practice, if a player feels like doing autographs, he’ll come to the fence line and oblige.
On the day I was in attendance, guys like quarterback Tony Romo, offensive linemen Ronald Leary and La’el Collins and kicker Dan Bailey all signed for well over 20 minutes. Rookies like cornerback Byron Jones and offensive lineman Chaz Green were out there for a half-hour or more.
To be honest, none of them made it feel like they were just going through the motions. Jones not only did signings, he granted multiple fans the opportunity to take a selfie with him and smiled just like it was his draft night.
And when arguably the biggest star on the team chooses to be out in 80+ degree heat for an extra 20 minutes in full pads, that’s pretty cool.
All in all, I definitely recommend the experience. A lot of the physical size and skill of these guys gets lost in translation, either on television or at a game from the stands.
Enjoy the beauty of California for a night or even a couple days and take home a few lasting memories of America’s Team.