Panthers draw record crowd to Wofford College

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Carolina Panthers drew record crowds to their training camp at Wofford College this year, Spartanburg tourism officials say.

The team completed training camp at Wofford last week and headed home to Charlotte.

The Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau said Thursday the team attracted more than 44,000 people to the practices between July 27 and Aug. 15.

"That's up almost 30 percent from last year's record," said Amy Phillips, marketing and communications manager for the convention and visitors' bureau.

More than 34,000 people visited last year, Phillips said.

The visitors spent almost $2 million in the area, the bureau estimates.

The bureau says about a third of those who visited the camp this year came from 50 miles or more from Spartanburg.

"This year, we had calls from as far away as California wanting to know the closest airport to fly into to see the training camp," Phillips added.

The bureau attributes the increased interest to projections for the team's improvement this year and the star-status of second-year quarterback Cam Newton.

Will Rothschild, spokesman for the city of Spartanburg, said the training camp is a good example of one of the rewards of being a college town.

Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson is a Wofford graduate and brought the training camp to his alma mater during the team's first season in 1995.

The team signed a contract in 2010 to keep the camp at Wofford at least five more years.

"The NFL is the most popular and successful sports franchise on the planet," Rothschild said. "Only 32 communities in the world get to have an NFL team in their community for training camp for about a month every year."