Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014 | 2 a.m.
They walk to practice, groups of two or three UNLV football players strolling down the street in a town they likely never would have otherwise encountered.
This is the daily scene in Ely, a town of 4,250, for the nearly two weeks each August when the Rebels arrive. Since 2006, the Rebels have been traveling north to this old mining town to escape the heat and spend the bulk of their training camp in relative seclusion from outside distractions.
It’s a break from the norm for both the Rebels and the residents of Ely. The players have little to do other than eat, sleep and practice, while the locals get a little economic boost and the opportunity to head over to Broadbent Park and watch the action.
The Rebels departed for Ely on Aug. 10 and don’t return until Aug. 21. That’s 12 days and 11 nights for a business vacation that offers many benefits for a team coming off its first winning season since 2000.
Here’s a look at some of the numbers behind the Rebels’ home away from home:
• 9: Consecutive years UNLV has traveled to Ely for a portion of preseason camp. Former coach Mike Sanford assigned assistant coach Kris Cinkovich the task of searching for possible destinations while recruiting in Northern Nevada, and Ely was the right fit.
• 11.3: Percentage of Ely’s total hotel rooms taken up by UNLV’s traveling party. The Rebels use about 90 of the town’s 800 rooms, according to director of football operations Terry Cottle. That doesn’t include fans or media.
• $110,000: Estimated cost to UNLV for traveling to Ely. Most of this is spent on lodging and feeding the traveling party, which can number about 150 with coaching staff and training personnel. Staying in Las Vegas wouldn’t be much cheaper, since the program has to house and feed the students during camp. Plus, the Ely weather is cool enough to practice any time of day.
• 249: Distance, in miles, from Las Vegas to Ely. The trip is believed to be the longest training camp trip for any Division I college football team. According to a University of Cincinnati survey from last year, UNLV is one of 14 teams that heads off campus for at least a portion of its fall camp. A couple of other schools cross state lines, but the Rebels’ mileage outpaces the group. The only other team to travel at least 200 miles is UTEP (to Alpine, Texas), while at least one other Mountain West school — New Mexico — makes an off-campus trip (to Ruidoso, N.M.).
• 4,407: Difference in elevation between Ely and Las Vegas. Besides the temperature, another benefit of trekking to Ely is the chance to practice in a higher elevation that’s more comparable to the environments the Rebels will encounter on the road. Working out in Ely’s 6,437-foot elevation forces the Rebels’ bodies to adjust and makes physical exertion easier once they return to Las Vegas.
• 17: Projected temperature difference, in degrees Fahrenheit, between Ely and Las Vegas on Aug. 17, according to weather.com.
Weather was the main impetus for UNLV’s original search for an off-campus site. In Ely, it’s about 15-20 degrees cooler than Las Vegas each day of camp, with occasional rainstorms dropping that temperature even further.