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St. Charles feels blessed after hosting secret NFL-player talks

St. Charles, Ill., population of 31,834, had a few more people in town last week -- and they caused quite a stir.

NFL owners and players chose the small Chicago suburb as the site for their clandestine labor talks Tuesday through Thursday, and the locals did their best to keep the secret while the parties tried to end the league's nearly three-month lockout.

The parties stayed at Hotel Baker, where the employees were excited about their new guests but honored their request for privacy. Rowena Salas, the hotel's general manager, told the *Kane County Chronicle* that she couldn't tell her 15-year-old twin sons, Antonio and Emilio, the truth when they asked if NFL owners and players were in town.

"They didn't make us sign anything for confidentiality, but they requested that it be kept confidential," Salas told the newspaper. "We had to adhere to that, and they were pleased with how we kept it so private."

News of the meeting broke Wednesday night, when the Chicago Tribune spotted New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft and a plane belonging to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at nearby DuPage Airport. The parties confirmed the talks Thursday as they left town, some of them bound for Friday's hearing before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Salas said the owners and players kept to themselves -- "they were private, and we didn't have the nerve to ask how things were going," she said -- but on Wednesday night, Jones asked about a place to hear some music. Salas recommended McNally's Pub, where Jones drew a crowd.

"I looked at him, and I kind of recognized him." Shay Clarke, the pub's manager, told the Chronicle. "You just don't believe it."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who also participated in the talks, said Friday that he was happy the parties could come together without lawyers present. And if the meeting in St. Charles leads to labor peace in the NFL, Salas won't forget the town's part in the whole deal.

"It was exhausting and exciting and something we will always remember," she said. "It'll go down in our books as one of the things that was very memorable at the Hotel Baker."

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