You've read the announcement. You've seen the schedule.
Now, I will give you the inside scoop on the Panthers Training Camp. I have seen a lot of rookie fan mistakes out there, and I aim to clean it up.
Camp begins with the Back to Football festivities at Gibbs Stadium. Be sure to arrive early, there are lots of great things to see and hear before practice begins. Typically there is live entertainment including a band as well as an appearance by a few select topcats. This takes place in front of the stadium close to the parking areas.
Practice takes place inside of Gibbs Stadium. Most people head for the seats closest to the parking. However, I feel like the best seating for Gibbs Stadium is on the east side of the field, especially if you are looking for player autographs. These bleachers are adjacent to where the players enter and leave the practice. The lower corner of these bleachers are prime autograph real estate.
You will be in the sun a bit more, but as the practice is later in the evening, that may not matter much to you.
Most of the practices at Training Camp are done on the three practice fields adjacent to Gibbs Stadium. There are a few key things here you should know...
The autograph area is along the fence near where the players enter and exit the locker rooms (pictured below). The key here is to position yourself in the right area. Typically the closer to the locker rooms the better. A you move farther away from them, the likelihood of an autograph decreases. Even farther away and you chances of getting an autograph drop to zero, as this would force the players to go far out of their way to get to you.
Preferential autograph treatment is given to kids, as it should be. My advice is to stand next to a kid, wait for that kid to get his or her autograph, then also get yours signed as well. If a player stops to sign once, he typically will sign a few within the same group of people. DO NOT push a kid out of the way or try to get yours first, you will be chastised by other fans, and probably me.
Players/Coaches I have seen give the most Autographs: Cam Newton, Deangelo Williams, Ron Rivera, Luke Kuechly.
Once you arrive at camp, take note of where the blue lifts with the video cameras are situated. Take note on where the video cameras are pointed. This will give you a heads up on which field the main action of the day is located.
Most fans will simply sit on the hill. This is a convenient way to watch all of practice in a leisurely manner from an elevated location. The only downside to the hill is the limited shade, so consider bringing an umbrella, and don't forget your sun screen.
In the morning, if practices are on the two conjoined fields, my advice is to head to the trees after applying your mosquito repellant. You will be in the shade for a good part of the practice and also will have a great view of the action. I am not kidding on the mosquito repellent. You have been warned.
If you are interested in taking photos at camp, I recommend a digital SLR camera with a lens that is capable of 300mm shooting at least. Quarterbacks are easy to photograph, they are stationary and predictable. Other skill positions can be much trickier. During wide receiver drills, the players will typically all run the same route, one after another. Watch the first route, then use that to determine and plan ahead the angle you would like your capture to be.
There are a couple things that fans do that tend to bother me at practices.
Don't yell at the players during practice. They are there, in many cases, fighting for their job. They will not respond to you. Not because they don't hear you, but because they are working.
Know the players names if you want an autograph. Yelling "Hey 88" will likely annoy more than impress, making a signed jersey unlikely.
Where to Eat
Most people will tell you to stop by the Beacon for a burger and fries. This is fine and something everyone must do at some point. My favorite.place, however, is closer to the training Camp. Wade's is a smorgasbord type restaurant. The best thing about it is the fact that when you purchase an entree, you get as many sides as you like. They are all amazing.
The Pizza Inn is also a great place to go, especially if you grew up in the 80s. It is a virtual time warp including table top pac-man and 19 inch picture tube televisions, The chocolate pudding typically has a half inch skin on it, roll it up as a snack on the way home.