Exerpted from John De Shazier’s post on NewOrleansSaints.com dated Monday, July 21 after the Saints paraded into White Sulphur Springs.
Banners in windows and swaying from streetlights, the framed cases housing jerseys covering prominent locations on walls, air so layered with excitement that it’s almost visible.
White Sulphur Springs, WV, never has seen anything like it and never again will, because there can only be one first. And White Sulphur Springs’ first – as in, the first NFL team to pay an extended visit to the city of about 4,000 residents – will be the New Orleans Saints, who will pour into town en masse Wednesday to be the honored guests of a rolling tour, which is expected to be accompanied by resident-lined streets.
“This has been an exciting time for most of the people in the area,” White Sulphur Springs Mayor Lloyd Haynes said. “Nothing like this has ever been in the city of White Sulphur Springs, so naturally, the citizens are really up in the air with anticipation with such a big event occurring in our city. It’s new ground for us.
“We tried to think about some of the things that are similar. We just had the Greenbrier Classic (a PGA Tour event); we try to lean upon some of the experiences that we encountered during that time and we try to use some of that to prepare us for the things that we’re going to face during the Saints marching in.
The level of enthusiasm fueled by an improbable union – an NFL team from the Gulf South and a city/region that had the vision and wherewithal to pour approximately $30 million into fields and facilities that would be suitable to draw a team for training camp.
“We had to haul and compact a lot of dirt. And we had to get the site prepared first and foremost. We had the field fully sodded by May 6. Then we just began preparing the site, getting the building up,” said Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, the host site of training camp.
The “building,” where the team will have its weight room, meeting rooms, locker rooms, offices, etc., is complete minus a few cosmetic touch-ups.
The city is more than ready, too.
“Who would have dreamed that a little town named White Sulphur Springs, in the middle of West Virginia, would be hosting the New Orleans Saints? We are very excited,” said business owner Ruth Miller, whose shop has Saints paraphernalia for sale.
“I think it’s an experience that (locals) get to have that they’ve never had before, being able to go to the practices and maybe the scrimmage. I think it’s an economic boost because we’re one of the best kept secrets there is.”
Said resident Sadie Fraley: “We’ve kind of adopted the Saints as our state team and we’re ready to support them and get to meet some of them, and watch them practice and cheer them on through the rest of the year. It’s very exciting for this small town.
“We’re proud that they’re coining here and we’re going to be proud of their accomplishments as they go forward.”
Undoubtedly, it’s a relationship that White Sulphur Springs hopes to extend.