Editor's note: This article was published prior to the Panthers' 2017 training camp. It has been updated to reflect any changes for 2018.
Now that Carolina Panthers training camp is here, I thought I would take a moment and give you a run down of all you need to know to prepare for the trip.
I have seen a lot of rookie mistakes by first time visiting fans over the years. This info should help make sure your visit to Wofford College is a pleasant one.
Camp begins with the Training Camp Kickoff Party at Gibbs Stadium on July 26. 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.
Pro Tip: Often times there are free things given away by Carolina Panthers sponsors such as sunglasses and transparent bags that are approved for use in NFL stadiums. If it’s free, it’s for me.
Most of the practices at Carolina Panthers Training Camp are done on the three practice fields adjacent to Gibbs Stadium. There are a few key things here you should know.
What to bring
Listen up, this is important. Grab a backpack and bring sunscreen, a poncho, mosquito repellent, and plenty of bottled water. These are all mandatory items if you plan on lasting a day at training camp. If you can bring a shade umbrella, do it. There likely will be no shade available for you on the hill during practices. Optional items include a blanket or chair to sit on, as the grass can be pretty wet in the mornings.
Carolina Panthers Training Camp Autographs
For the kickoff party, autographs are signed after practice for people in the first row. Make your way down there as soon as you can.
For the rest of camp, 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. As you move farther away from them, the likelihood of an autograph decreases. Even farther away and your 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 child 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, James Bradberry, Graham Gano, Ron Rivera, and Luke Kuechly.
Carolina Panthers Practice Viewing
See that hill labeled Hot in the photo above? That is where most of the practice viewing takes place. It is labeled appropriately as it is in full sun most of the day. Hopefully, you listened to my advice and are chilling with a shade umbrella and plenty of water. If so, congrats, you are a winner. Enjoy yourself as you watch the other fans melt.
Pro Tip: There is shade to be found during morning practices along the end zones of the practice field. You won’t be able to sit down and you will be attacked by angry hoards of mosquitoes, so pick your poison accordingly.
There are a couple of 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. If you don’t know who the player is, I suspect you probably don’t care about his autograph all that much.
Where to eat
Most people will tell you to stop by the Beacon for a burger and fries if you are attending the Carolina Panthers training camp. This is fine and something everyone must do at some point. But my favorite place is closer to the training camp. Wade’s is a smorgasbord type restaurant just across the street from Wofford. The best thing about Wade’s is the sides. They are all amazing. Don’t skip the Mac n Cheese, it is divine.
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 tabletop Pac-Man and 19" picture tube televisions. The chocolate pudding typically has a half inch skin on it, roll it up as a snack on the way home.
I hear good things about Willy Taco in Spartanburg. I plan on trying it out this year, will report back.