ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs officially opened their eight training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph Thursday, and the team expects a decision soon whether it plans to return in 2018.
“Our intention is to come back,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said about returning to St. Joseph for another season.
“We’ll know what we’re doing for next year within three weeks after camp this year,” he said.
Missouri Western president Robert Vartabedian said the university remains committed to keeping the Chiefs on campus.
“I think on this negotiation we should be able to move pretty quickly,” Vartabedian said. “We’re very supportive of it and it sounds like the Chiefs are as well.”
The Chiefs moved their training camp to St. Joseph in 2010, signing a five-year partnership agreement with the university. The two sides renewed the agreement in 2015 for three more years through 2017. That deal includes two one-year mutual options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Vartabedian said serving as summer home for the Chiefs remains a point of pride for the university. He said more than 250,000 fans have traveled to St. Joseph for training camp over the past seven years.
“I’m hopeful that we can continue to the relationship,” Vartabedian said.
The decision on remaining in St. Joseph comes at a time with NFL teams increasingly moving training camp to their own facilities. Donovan said both formats offer benefits and disadvantages.
Incumbency remains the biggest advantage in the university’s favor.
“Every single minute of camp is critical to us on the football operation,” he said. “And these guys understand that.”
The Chiefs continue exploring their options, Donovan explained, but the team enjoys the familiarity, consistency and efficiency of the university setting.
“I think it would be tough for somebody to come in and wow us and take it away from here.”
Donovan said head coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach favor camp in St. Joseph.
“Andy loves it, I’ve talked to him directly about it,” Donovan said. “Brett likes it. He likes the fact that we get away when we get together. It means a lot to the players.”
Donovan and Vartabedian agree the early years of camp proved rocky at times with both the club and the school learning lessons on managing the needs of players, coaches and team employees as well as university students and employees in addition to fans traveling from Kansas City.
Vartabedian offered an example from this year’s camp in how the university works toward improving the fan experience. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) planned bridge repair work along Interstate 29 during training camp that would led to lengthy travel delays.
The university successfully lobbied MODOT to delay construction until later this summer.
“They knew how important this was to us, so they postponed it until after the camp is over,” Vartabedian said.
Vartabedian said the university would certainly executive its option for next season, but he also remains open to negotiating a longer team deal for 2018 and beyond.
“I’m very much open to that,” Vartabedian said. “We can that on the table when we sit down to talk.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.