CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers equipment staff is facing a unique set of circumstances this summer, but as equipment manager Jackie Miles enters his 20th season, he's ready for anything.
"It's not that out of the ordinary," Miles said. "It's a logistical challenge, but we've got it down to a science."
Typically, Fan Fest takes place at Bank of America Stadium about a week after the Panthers open training camp 70 miles down the road at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. But this year, a soccer game scheduled for that Saturday means Fan Fest will be held Friday, July 25 - on the eve of training camp.
As always, Miles and his crew are moving most of the equipment to Wofford a little more than a week before the start of camp. But unlike years past, the timing of Fan Fest will also require a late-night/early-morning move hours before the opening training camp practice July 26.
"That Friday night will be a long one, but we're anticipating it," Miles said. "We've gotten back from the West Coast many a time at two or three in the morning and had to work till six or seven to unpack.
"We'll kind of treat Fan Fest like an away game. We'll spend all of Friday night unpacking, like we normally would after an away game, so it's not that big of a deal."
With 20 years of NFL experience and nearly another 20 years spent on the college level and in the USFL before that, this is old hat for Miles, but it is a big deal. About 40 people and two moving trucks from longtime Panthers partner T-N-T Moving Systems were required for Thursday's move, just a portion of the process. In addition to transporting about seven truckloads over several days, bigger equipment like tackling dummies must be delivered separately.
But this year's move – even with all the moving parts created by the unique schedule – pales in comparison to the franchise's first year.
"We had a temporary facility at Winthrop while they were building the stadium here, and we went for Wofford for training camp and then played our home games at Clemson," Miles said. "Every game was like an away game for the equipment staff."
Even so, this year's move will keep Miles and Co. on their toes. He wouldn't have it any other way.
"I always get excited this time of year," Miles said. "I love football season. We're all anxious to get back to it, and we all live for Sundays."