Oxnard calls for Cowboys to ride again
Oxnard city officials and the owner of the Dallas Cowboys plan to meet later this month to discuss the football team’s return next year for a two-week training camp.
Oxnard General Services Superintendent Michael Henderson said he, Mayor Thomas Holden, City Manager Ed Sotelo and team owner Jerry Jones are expected to reach a decision within the next two weeks.
According to published and broadcast reports, Jones wants to work out the details with the city and return the training camp to Oxnard next year. However, the team’s media manager Rich Dalrymple said Aug. 20 he could neither confirm or deny the Cowboys’ plans with Oxnard next year. He refused further comment.
“They want to come back,” Henderson said. He described himself as the city’s “point person” in talks with the Cowboys. “They like it here; the weather is perfect and they like the fan base.”
The Cowboys have a five-year contract to train in San Antonio’s Alamodome, but team officials said they would prefer to split training camp between San Antonio and Oxnard in the same year.
In years past, the likes of Roger Staubach and Ed “Too Tall” Jones could be seen training in August at California Lutheran University in Thousands Oaks. But the team eventually moved away from Ventura County only to return periodically starting seven years ago.
The Cowboys opened a training camp in Oxnard in 2001 and returned from 2004 to 2006.
Their deal with San Antonio began last year, but the team had to leave the Alamodome this summer because of a scheduling conflict with a religious convention.
However, not many team officials or players complained too loudly about leaving steamy Texas in mid-summer and arriving in Oxnard.
“They get tremendous fan support,” Henderson said. “They love the fan base because there’s no team in L.A.”
This year, the Cowboys camp was at the Residence Inn River Ridge from July 25 to Aug. 12.
The training camp is a tourist attraction that brings millions of dollars into the city, said Janet S. Sederquist, president and chief executive officer of the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Through hosting the Dallas Cowboys 2008 training camp, the city of Oxnard [at a 95 percent confidence level] earned approximately $4.5 million to $5.3 million in gross revenue with a total tax benefit of approximately $365,000 to $426,000,” Sederquist said in a prepared statement. “This was evenly distributed between hotel, shopping and food/beverage expenditures from tourists.”
About 70,000 fans came to see the team’s training camp this year, Sederquist said. More than 73 percent of the fans were from areas other than Ventura County.
“When asked how likely [they were] of attending another Dallas Cowboys training camp,” Sederquist said, “the average response was between 9.2 and 9.4 – using a 1 to 10 scale [with] 10 being high.”
It appeared 35.4 percent of the fans showed up the first day of camp.
“That would be reflective of the advertising that was associated with the children’s activities, cheerleaders, cheer-leading camps, giveaways and meet-and-greet events,” Sederquist said.
She said this year’s report on the economic impact of the Cowboys’ camp was prepared by California Lutheran University students at the request of the Economic Development Corp. of Oxnard.
Oxnard city officials were able to get the River Ridge hotel fields ready for the Cowboys to use for training.
If the Cowboys return, the 25-acre field next to the Residence Inn by Marriott probably won’t be available.
Casden Properties LLC bought the land in 2006. The Beverly Hills firm plans to develop it after it obtains approvals and the housing market improves.
Henderson said Oxnard already has an alternate training location in mind.
The old Oxnard High School, at West Fifth and South H streets, is being leveled, and most of its buildings will be demolished by the end of September, according to Henderson.
The city plans to use the 33 acres as park space, and having the Cowboys train there wouldn’t present a significant problem, Oxnard officials said.
Henderson said the city has plenty of room to arrange the construction of the fields and parking lots.
He said the team could stay at a nearby hotel and be bused to practice.