Foxborough has seen record crowds attend the start of the New England Patriots Training Camp this summer and Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium was no different.
The Patriots announced shortly after its sixth annual in-stadium practice for season ticket holders and Foxborough residents that 22,633 fans were in attendance – the largest ever crowd for an in-stadium practice. The previous record was set last summer with a crowd of 18,334.
Some Foxborough Patch readers that were in attendance Wednesday were kind enough to share their thoughts and experiences with us on Foxborough Patch’s Facebook page.
Evan Cardullo said: “Great time! I’ve lived here for three years and this was my first time at the Gillette practice. I really liked that Mr. Kraft took the microphone and addressed the crowd.”
Robert Kraft’s message to the 22,633 in attendance Wednesday was one full of appreciation and thanks.
“We have the best home record in the NFL since Gillette Stadium opened and we give you [the fans] all the credit for that,” Kraft said. “Thank you all.”
Foxborough Patch reader and avid Patriots fan Raquel L. Auriemma said it was a beautiful night for football and that she always enjoys watching practice inside the stadium.
“I like to watch the sidelines,” Auriemma said. “While most people are watching Brady, Welker, Gronk, etc. running plays … I like to watch Mesko and Gostkowski working on kicks along the sidelines or the defense working on blocks or just to catch [players] acting silly.”
Foxborough Patch reader Jen DeAngelis agreed with Auriemma, saying “it was a nice night” to be at Gillette Stadium and a family-friendly event.
“It's a good chance to take our kids to see football without it being too loud or rowdy,” DeAngelis said. “Plus the $2 hot dogs and drinks were great.”
Foxborough Patch reader Lorene Gulliver said she received some “unexpected tickets” to the event and was glad she was able to attend.
“[It] was [a] nice night for some football practice,” she said.
And the editor of Framingham Patch even weighed in on the experience she had with her family.
“Awesome to watch practice inside the stadium,” said Susan Petroni. “Our family had a fabulous night.”
The event, sponsored by United Healthcare, became an annual tradition six years ago when the organization decided to reward season ticket holders with a unique experience, according to Dan Murphy, Gillette Stadium’s Vice President of External Affairs
“We started the tradition as an added amenity to thank our season ticket holders for their dedication to the team and as we do as often as we can, we include Foxborough residents to thank them for their support as well,” Murphy said.
This event is especially unique for Foxborough residents, who are eligible for free complimentary tickets to the annual in-stadium practice as a way to experience the Patriots in a game-like setting for little to no cost.
“We recognize that not every Foxborough resident gets to attend Patriots games in-person, so this event gives them the opportunity to experience a live event in the stadium,” Murphy said. “Parking is free and Patriots Fan Zone, our football-themed activity area, [was] open at 4 p.m. Tickets are general admission, so if you arrive early you can get close to the field. Concessions [were] available inside the stadium.”
Further enhancing the fan experience was detailed explanations of drills over the PA system, giving observers an understanding of why the players practice certain things and how it translates into an actual game.
“For residents who already like to attend training camp practices, this is a great opportunity to learn more about what they are watching,” Murphy said. “As the players go through their drills, we use the PA system to explain each drill and its purpose, as well as how it fits into the program of a typical practice. It’s a great football education opportunity.”
In addition to the practice, fans were able to enjoy t-shirt launches and player autographs at the end of the night.
Through the first four days of training camp, approximately 50,000 fans visited Foxborough to watch the Patriots practice outside of Gillette Stadium and those attendance numbers continue to rise as Training Camp reaches its first full week Thursday.
View the photo gallery above for scenes from Wednesday’s crowd and log on to Foxborough Patch Friday morning to view the photo gallery of the Patriots players participating in drills during the in-stadium practice. You can have that photo gallery and other top Foxborough Patch headlines e-mailed directly to your inbox by signing up for our free newsletter. Follow this link to sign up!