I fully expect this year's Denver Broncos training camp to have the highest fan turnout ever. With superstar quarterback Peyton Manning on the team, fans of the Broncos as well as fans of Manning himself will be lining up very early on July 26 to see the future Hall of Fame quarterback. There are 18 absolutely free practices open to the public in late July/early August, and there will no doubt be thousands who will attend. As a fan who has attended four practices over the past two years (during the very crowded Tebow seasons), I can offer some advice as to how to maximize your training camp experience.
If you don't get there by the time the parking gates open up at 7:50 a.m. on that first day, you will be sitting in traffic for a very long time. Practice starts at 8:50 (the gates will always open an hour beforehand), but it will take a little time to maneuver into the gravel parking lot and get into the long line that will already have formed. Don't be shy to park on the street directly across from the main entrance to the Broncos practice facility. Many will, and that's probably the fastest way to exit.
What To Bring
First, I will tell you what NOT to bring. Don't even think you'll be able to bring a nice camera or a camcorder. They will turn you back after you've stood in line for an hour if you have one of those (yes, it happened to me at my first practice). They don't want you taking professional pictures or putting videos up online for everyone to see, and if they think you're trying to take video of practice on your iPhone, they may ask you to stop. Otherwise, taking pics from your smart phone will be okay. Also, don't bring chairs, umbrellas, or screaming children.
Do bring sunscreen as you will need to apply it liberally and often (for morning sessions especially). You will be sitting in the sun for a couple hours straight and it gets very, very hot most days. Sunglasses and a hat are also highly recommended as they will be the only shade you will have. A blanket or a towel is a good idea as you will be sitting down directly on a grass embankment. You can bring in something to drink and eat in individual portions (and you should absolutely bring a decent-sized bottle of cold water), but no coolers. There will concessions available on-site but they will only serve beverages.
Where To Sit
First of all, understand that you need to be seated before 8:30 if you want to see the first players on the field. The past few years players started coming out onto the practice field 10-15 minutes early, and I expect Manning to do the same (or earlier). Fans generally give these guys a rousing ovation and it's a fun way to start the practice.
I can't guarantee that everything will be the same as it's been the last few years, but it should be close. Personally, I never wanted to be among the first couple hundred people through the door, so I've never gotten upset if I'm way back in line when the gates open. The early fans are crammed into the end zone area of the practice field which is not the best vantage point in my opinion. As you enter the practice facility you are herded to the far end and are forced to sit very closely to each other in the order that you enter. There's no picking and choosing of spots. As the practice wears on and some people leave, you may have the ability to move. Be patient, though. No matter where you sit, the vast majority of fans will be within 20-25 feet of the practice field and will be very close to the players and coaches.
There are opportunities at the end of every practice open to the public for autographs. You will probably notice fans gathering at a certain spot on the west sideline usually on the north end of the main practice field. Different players will sign every day, and typically you won't know who's signing until they walk over. Don't expect Peyton to be there every day (he may only sign once or twice the entire camp).
There should be two places on-site to purchase Broncos memorabilia (and finally get that Manning jersey). There usually is a station set up in the parking lot that will have many items, and the team store will be temporarily moved to the north side of the training facility so that fans can access it from the practice fields. For fans looking for hard-to-find objects (such as two years ago when I was trying to find a certain size pink Tebow jersey), this will represent your best opportunity to find things all summer.
Julie is a football fanatic who has been following the Denver Broncos since moving to town in 2001. She lives just three minutes from Broncos headquarters in Englewood.