Mike Reilly and Bryan Burnham sauntered out of Hillside Stadium wearing street clothes, a pair of relaxed-looking B.C. Lions.
Merriment was all over their faces. Three weeks of hard work and seclusion in Kamloops is enough. Training camp reached a welcomed end on Wednesday.
“Camp is always exciting when it starts,” said Reilly, the quarterback who in February signed a four-year, $2.9 million contract.
“It’s always more exciting when it ends, but that’s because the work has been put in. It’s time to move on and get prepped for the season to start.”
The Lions are under contract to hold training camp in Kamloops next year, but the deal with the city expires after 2020.
“We were literally just talking about this as we were walking off the track, looking at the view and saying, ‘Soak it up. We won’t see this place until next year.’ It’s an awesome venue,” Reilly said. “The views are cool, the city treats us really well, but the facilities are perfect for a training camp.
“You’ve got the dorms, where everybody is housed, and you’ve got the meal hall and the facility here with the field and the meeting rooms, weight rooms and the pool. There is no better scenario for a team to come and do camp.”
Burnham has six times made the reflective stroll to the Thompson Rivers University dorms from Hillside Stadium following the final training-camp session.
“I agree with everything he just said,” said Burnham, a receiver who is under contract with the Lions through 2020.
“You’re driving up through the mountains and you think you’re in the middle of nowhere and then you get up here and you see this big city built into the mountains. Kamloops has a special place in my heart. This is my sixth year here. This is where I made my pro career happen.”
Cities across the province will make pitches, bids to intercept Lions’ training camp.
Nanaimo, Prince George, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Courtenay and Kelowna were among cities rumoured to be interested in hosting the pre-season festivities when they were last up for grabs in 2017.
“I hope we do continue to come to Kamloops, but we are the British Columbia Lions and if we have to go elsewhere, I won’t have a problem with it, but I do enjoy coming to Kamloops,” Burnham said.
Added Reilly: “I love having it here, but whatever the decision is, if they feel like they want to move it around so it’s a little more accessible to people around the province, then I would understand that, too, but I’m perfectly happy to do camp in Kamloops.”
The Lions’ final pre-season tune-up will come against the Calgary Stampeders on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m. at BC Place Stadium.
“We hit the ground running at the start of camp, then we kind of hit a speed bump and had a little adversity for a few practices, and it was necessary,” Burnham said. “We were back on track these last few days and put together some really good practices.
“I’m excited to actually put it together and compete against another team.”