Did you know that the Detroit Lions used to hold training camp in Portsmouth, Ohio? That’s where the team went each summer from 1929-1933 to get in game shape. Now, players make a short drive from their homes to the team facility in Allen Park, which sits in a business park featuring numerous Ford offices. The tallest building in the park is the indoor practice facility.
Behind the facility are two practice fields, home to Lions training camp.
Years ago there was the romance of holding NFL training camps on a college campus, preferably a small school in a small town. Teams would take 100 men to the college, throw them into a room with double beds, feed them in the chow hall and then players would have to wade through autograph seekers to the practice fields.
Increasingly, those days are passing by NFL fans. In Detroit, that atmosphere is dead.
Now, in suburban Detroit, you exit off the Southfield Fwy. make one turn (opposite direction takes you to the Henry Ford Museum) and there is the business park with hints of the Ford brand. The practice facility is the tallest building around. It’s the Lions home and doesn’t feature dorms, sorority houses or places to get drunk after practice. It’s an indoor football facility with practice fields and parking lots for the biggest SUVs NFL money can buy.
You’re here for practice and very little pageantry.
Detroit Lions Training Camp Notes & Insider Tips
Location: 222 Republic Drive Allen Park, MI
Cost: It’s FREE! No tickets needed. Fair warning – security will make you throw away outside beverages, including water. Wear cargo shorts and slide a bottle into a side pocket. The security guys won’t even look.
Parking: FREE; You’ll have to park at a lot about a mile away, but it’s free and an air conditioned bus will deliver you to the gate.
Food: There’s one tent with the normal offerings off the grill. $2 for a 16 oz. bottle of Pepsi. Seem to remember they even had breakfast items such as bagels in case you want to eat a bagel and watch Stafford rip off passes to Megatron.
Beer: No beer sales. That said, there are plenty of spots where you could pour a few mixed drinks via your vodka stash.
Lions Camp Observations:
• And here last year we thought the Cleveland Browns operation was a snoozer. There were times on Saturday when you could hear a pin drop. Want to grab a nap? This is a great place. Even at 11 a.m. there were maybe 1,200 fans milling around. Plenty of great seats available on the soccer bleachers.
• Best seating location? Just stand.
• Do your kids bore easily? Plan on only being at this camp for an hour or so. There’s exactly zero activities to keep bored kids busy. No mascots to jump on. No ball pits to jump in. No kids zones to drill tackling dummies.
• Autographs? Get in the line you see forming near the 97.1 tent. Soon, a team rep will take the hounds to a nice shaded area.
Proximity To Players
The linemen hit each other about 75 yards from the nearest viewing location. If you’re here to see Suh & Fairley run over some free agent, bring binoculars. As for the offense, Calvin Johnson catches passes about 10 yards in front of your location. It’ll give you goosebumps.
Besides breathing the same air as your heroes, there’s nothing special about Lions camp. No tents with old timers signing autographs and sharing stories. No private, air conditioned suites for corporate sponsors. No fans wearing face paint. No crazy superfans to have your kids get a picture with. No DJs. It’s a very subdued camp.
There wasn’t a single image of Barry Sanders at camp. Not a single fan was wearing a Sanders jersey (did spot a Drew Stanton). The team doesn’t have its ticketing staff on-site trying to sell tickets. We’re not suggesting the Lions turn camp into a circus, but maybe make it feel less like a business park and a little more like one of those nostalgic college campuses.