The "new" has worn off, but visiting the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp on the campus of Missouri Western State University still is a unique treat for football fans, year in and year out.
Civic boosters worried about losing the camp after a five-year contract expires this year need to appreciate what it was initially, what it has become and what it could be for years to come.
We well remember the days when officials first announced the camp was headed to St. Joseph: Had the Chiefs shown an interest, we’re pretty sure the city would have thrown a welcoming parade complete with cheerleaders, marching bands and candy for the kids.
Securing the camp and $10.3 million in funding for the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex was a boost to our confidence that spilled over into good feelings about the outlook for Missouri Western, our economy and how our community would be viewed in the Kansas City metro area and across the region.
Years two through four had their moments — sightings of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, a warm welcome to new head coach Andy Reid — but the remarkable thing was the consistency of the experience that Missouri Western was able to provide. The Chiefs have come to count on it and place high value on it.
Activities for the kids, autograph sessions, a summertime chance for fans to get their football fix — these are constants equivalent to what goes on during spring training for Major League Baseball. Only these annual rituals play out here rather than in Florida or Arizona.
The future for the camp (provided it returns to St. Joseph) is one part these activities all over again — but with new players, sometimes new coaches, and always the promise that this could be the year we will compete for a championship.
The other part? That’s up to us. Count on the loyal fans for their reliable attendance as long as Missouri Western and the Chiefs meet their expectations. But less-frequent camp visitors will require some wooing.
Rather than pondering what it would be like to not have a camp in the future, we think it’s best to spend that brain power and energy coming up with fresh ideas for building on a great foundation.
What can we do to improve the experience at camp? What would bring infrequent fans to camp for at least one day each year, and reward them for their efforts? What more can we do to connect the camp to the community?
We’ve laid a solid foundation. Let’s build on it.