Chicago Bears to hold a free practice in Vernon Hills
Vernon Hills High School Athletic Director Brian McDonald isn't sure how many seats are in Rust-Oleum Field but is pretty certain it will be standing room only Aug. 22.
That's when the Chicago Bears will be holding a training camp practice, free and open to the public as part of its "Varsity Bears" outreach program.
The Bears held similar events in 2016 at Warren Township High School in Gurnee and last year at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.
"The Bears reached out to us and asked if we would do this," McDonald said.
The Vernon Hills village board last week approved the special event at VHHS, 145 Lakeview Parkway.
"It was very successful. Communities love it," Cliff Stein, Bears senior vice president and general counsel, told the board. "Tickets are free. Parking is free. It's a completely free event."
Fans will need tickets for the event. Details are being finalized and will be available in coming weeks at www.chicagobears.com. Gates and parking will open at 4 p.m. and the Bears will arrive in uniform for practice from 6 to 8:50 p.m. Fireworks will follow.
"We're comfortable we can get 5,000 people in the venue," Police Chief Patrick Kreis said. "Probably the biggest challenge is parking and traffic. It's an evening. It's a weekday."
American Hotel Register will release employees early and allow parking at its 1,000 space lot. That is combined with 500 spaces at the high school and 150 spaces behind the stadium.
"We're going to do everything we can to communicate to people how to get there without further clogging up those side streets," Kreis said.
According to Stein, the Bears for the first time in more than a decade will not be hosting family fest, which included a simulated practice, at Soldier Field.
"This will really be the only time this year fans will have the opportunity to come see the Bears other than training camp," he said.
While the Bears take over Rust-Oleum for the day, VHHS football players will be heading to the Walter Payton Center at Halas Hall.
"We're swapping practice facilities," McDonald said. "It's unusual for our kids to get on a bus to practice but it'll be a very cool experience for them."
Meanwhile, the village staff is reviewing a proposal to convert the former Sports Authority building into a Chicago Bears-themed fitness facility called Bears Fit at 155 E. Townline Road (Route 60).
Stein last January pitched to the village board the joint venture with an entity owned by Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness and co-owner of the Sacramento Kings.
"It's in the works," he told Mayor Roger Byrne. "I don't want to totally play all my cards here but we're excited. It's going to be a great surprise for the community."