Last summer was supposed to be a landmark year for Missouri Western State University and its hosting of the Kansas City Chiefs’ training camp. Then a pandemic hit.
“What a disappointment. It’s just another thing you can add to 2020,” Dr. Josh Looney, vice president of intercollegiate athletics at Missouri Western, said.
With the team on its “Run It Back” campaign, with a second consecutive appearance at the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, hopes are high that the Chiefs will be returning to St. Joseph for its summer training camp.
“What we’re hoping for right now is that they win on Sunday and they do decide to come back here. I feel fairly positive that they will,” Marci Bennett, executive director for the St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau, said.
Due to the coronavirus, the Kansas City Chiefs announced in June 2020 that the team would have to temporarily re-locate its training camp from Missouri Western to its home facility in Kansas City, Missouri. Organizers said that a decision for 2021 is still being discussed.
“The intention of both parties is to is to have training camp. We’re in constant communication with the Chiefs, (we) have been throughout this year. COVID’s the ultimate question in that environment and probably will continue to be going into the summer,” Looney said.
While they can only speculate on the response the 2020 training camp would have received, with the Chiefs winning the team’s first Super Bowl title in 50 years, both Looney and Bennett said they believe the visitor numbers would have easily eclipsed any prior camp.
“After last year’s camp and in a normal, non-COVID year ... The economic impact it would have had in St. Joseph by far would have surpassed any of the prior camps we have over the last decade,” Looney said.
After the 2020 Super Bowl win, the St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau was gearing up for a big push for the training camp.
“We were really excited after they won the Super Bowl, thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, training camp is going to be awesome this year. There’s all kinds of cool things we can do to improve the fan experience and to actually play off the fan experience and add more revenue to our community,” Bennett said.
The number of visitors to Chiefs training camp has been trending upwards. In 2019, more than 62,000 fans turned out to the multi-week training camp. That total bested the training camp’s original record 55,000 in 2010, when the Chiefs’ camp debuted at Missouri. It was also double the number of attendees from the previous year in 2018.
Regardless of what happens in 2021, the Chiefs and Missouri Western have agreed to hold training camp at the college through 2022, with an additional two-year option on the table. Looney said the 2020 training camp held in Kansas City will still count as part of that agreement.
“Unfortunately, last year is a year that neither side could could see coming and to the fault of neither. Our timeline remains the same as if COVID did not happen,” he said.
While Missouri Western and St. Joseph are focused on the future of the camp, they’re all about seeing the Chiefs getting the W on Sunday.
“We were excited a year ago to have the Lombardi Trophy on display and Lamar Hunt trophy on display. And since we weren’t able to do that, there’s no reason not to have two of each at training camp ... I think that would make it worth the wait,” Looney said.