ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The first full team practice of this year’s training camp kicks off Thursday afternoon, but the Chiefs officially open their camp Wednesday with the arrival of veteran players and a ceremony on the camps of Missouri Western State University.
“We love it up here,” Donovan said. “We’ve got a coaching staff and general manager, football operations staff that sees value in going away for camp.”
MWSU president Robert Vartabedian said approximately 300,000 fans have attended training camp during the first eight seasons in St. Joseph.
“There’s certainly nothing that we do that brings those kinds of numbers into our campus or into our community so it’s really a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase not only the university but the St. Joseph community,” Vartabedian said.
This year marks the ninth training camp for the Chiefs on the MWSU campus. The agreement between the university and the team includes a mutual option for the 2019.
Last year Donovan said he hoped to announce a renewal of the agreement a few weeks after training camp. The deal was not finalized, however, until January. Donovan did not put any timetable on this year’s renewal decision.
“It didn’t take a little more than a couple of weeks because of any big issues, more timing on both sides,” Donovan said.
The 2019 season would conclude a 10-year agreement between the club and the state of Missouri. The state provided tax incentives to lure the Chiefs from River Falls, Wis. The deal required the team to refund some of those incentives if camp left Missouri prior to the 2020 season.
If both sides pick up the option for 2019, that could make Chiefs training camp a free agent. Donovan acknowledged in the past several locations have expressed an interest in hosting the team.
The most likely alternative would be the Chiefs regular season practice home. Increasingly NFL teams are hosting training camps at their own facilities. However the club would need to make significant upgrades to their current training complex to accommodate a full training camp with practices open to the public.
A long-term deal to keep Chiefs training camp in Missouri would require a partnership with the state, Donovan said. He believes new Missouri Gov. Mike Parson will attend training camp at some point over the next few weeks.
“Gov. Parson and I texted right after he was (inaugurated),” Donovan said. “He’s a huge supporter. Big, big fan of he organization. We’ve had a relationship with him over the years, which helps us. He’s got a lot on his plate, so our texts were more congratulations and we’ve got to get up to camp, we’ve got to get you up to a game, tell us how we can help you.”
Head coach Andy Reid continues to support coming to St. Joseph for camp. He points toward the camaraderie and team-building experience players gain from going away from home for camp.
“We see a lot of value in being here beyond what the university does for us as a football team, as an operation and that will be something that goes into the evaluation,” Donovan said.