20 miles south-west of Foxboro, Massachusetts lies Smithfield, Rhode Island. Just like Foxboro, Smithfield is a small New England town – and just like Foxboro, it has a close connection to the Patriots. After all, the town of Smithfield used to be the organization's "summer home": the Patriots held their annual training camp at nearby Bryant College (since 2004 known as Bryant University) from 1976 to 2002.
Before 1976, the Patriots' training camp locations – just like their home stadiums – were not set in stone. The team held its first two camps at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst before moving to Andover's Phillips Academy (1962-1968). The Patriots moved back to Amherst in 1969 and spent their next seven summers there.
Prior to their 1976 training camp, the team moved again. This time to Bryant College, which did not have a football program until 1999. During their time at the college located in the woods of northern Rhode Island, the Patriots laid the foundation for three teams that would reach the Super Bowl (1985, 1996, 2001). The franchise's first world championship team – the 2001 squad – was built there.
Still, with the opening of the state-of-the-art Gillette Stadium complex in September 2002, the Patriots' desire to move to Smithfield during the summer was gone. While the difference between the Bryant College training facilities and the old Foxboro Stadium was not that big, the one between Bryant and Gillette (then known as CMGI Field) was. Bill Belichick had to say the following about the move in June 2002, prior to the Patriots' last training camp in Rhode Island:
I think it's a little bit of a trade-off. I think there's some value to it. But on the flip side, when you go away, you just can't duplicate the facilities we have here. […] We could duplicate Foxboro but we couldn't duplicate this weight room, or this training room, or the video equipment. The efficiency that we could have here would be a lot better than we could have at training camp.
While the move paid off for both the Patriots – the team has won three more Super Bowls since then – and their fans – more are able to visit sessions – Gillette Stadium's practice facility (with Patriot Place nearby) has a different feel than the remote and almost intimate Bryant College. Training camp is still special and has its own charm but lacks the unique one of the old college campus.