NAU President John Haeger welcomed the Arizona Cardinals to campus on July 30 at a kick-off press conference where he presented head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals President Michael Bidwill and owner William Bidwill with NAU gear embroidered with their names in appreciation of the team’s presence at NAU since 1988.
Michael Bidwill said the ongoing partnership between the Cardinals and NAU has contributed to the training camp’s reputation as the best in the NFL. “What it’s about is our fans,” he said. “Each year, we make a deliberate effort to make it more fan-friendly, to make it a better place for our fans to come. We’re excited about the relationship we have with NAU, with Dr. Haeger, with Flagstaff and with the fans because it really is truly a great partnership.”
He called the university a “center of excellence” in the state, pointing to the research and educational facilities that make NAU a great learning institution, and the economic impact the university has on the local and state business communities. “Things get done here because there’s a strong leader at the top driving things to get done, and that’s Dr. Haeger,” he said.
Whisenhunt said NAU is important to getting the team ready for the season. “Training camp is such a critical preparation for your team, and it’s always great to know that you have a place like this to get a good start,” he said. “I look forward to coming to training camp, I know that’s kind of tough to say, but I look forward to coming to training camp here. It’s a great place for our fans to come up and have interaction with us.”
Several thousand fans attended the Cards’ first practice Saturday on NAU’s fields across from the Walkup Skydome. Sunday and Monday’s steady rainfall moved the practices inside the Skydome, keeping fans dry and comfortable as they watched the team train.Whisenhunt said he appreciates the altitude for conditioning the players, the facilities available for inclement weather conditions and the accommodations it offers to fans. “It’s a great atmosphere for fans and players,” he said.
In addition to enjoying training camp and outdoor activities, fans will find even more fun this summer in Flagstaff. To coincide with the Cards’ Red & White Scrimmage on Saturday, Flagstaff will host the first Big Red Pour in Wheeler Park downtown, featuring live music performances and craft beer from internationally acclaimed breweries. The festivities begin at 4 p.m. Aug. 6 during First Friday ArtWalk and pick back up at noon on Saturday, Aug. 7. Two-time Grammy winner and Arizona native Michelle Branch will headline Saturday’s musical performances.