The Kansas City Chiefs break training camp today with high hopes of ending a 49-year Super Bowl drought.
Whether the Chiefs find themselves playing in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium on the first Sunday in February depends on what happens on the field between now and then.
Maybe this will be the year, but Patrick Mahomes II and an improved defense won’t factor into another big question about this team’s future. Will the Chiefs return to Missouri Western State University next July for an 11th-consecutive training camp in St. Joseph?
That decision is most likely to be based, not on Andy Reid’s Xs and Os, but on dollars and cents.
“At the end of the day, they are a business,” said Charlie Shields, who played a significant role in bringing the Chiefs to St. Joseph a decade ago. “It’s a business decision on what makes sense.”
Shields would know. As president of the Missouri Senate, he helped negotiate the deal that ended with the Chiefs relocating their summer training camp from River Falls, Wisconsin, to Missouri Western. Recall that this deal revolved not around how much St. Joseph loves the Chiefs, but on the nitty-gritty of a $25 million tax credit package for parking lot improvements and other upgrades at Arrowhead Stadium, in addition to construction of an indoor practice facility at Missouri Western.
The original agreement called for the Chiefs to keep their training camp in Missouri for 10 years, with the first five at Western. A series of extensions kept the camp in St. Joseph through 2019. Now, as the team prepares for the regular season, behind-the-scenes negotiations will determine whether St. Joseph sees a training camp in 2020.
“I suspect, like any business, they are going to try to cut the best deal and lower operating costs,” said Shields, who now works as president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers and is not involved in negotiations to bring the team back to St. Joseph.
The city has plenty in its favor, in addition to close proximity to Kansas City. Another university or college town would need around $15 million to quickly come up with comparable indoor and outdoor practice facilities and locker rooms, weight rooms and other necessities to get an NFL team ready for the season.
St. Joseph kept up its end of the bargain with NFL-caliber facilities and service, as well as practice field improvements negotiated as part of the contract extensions. It doesn’t hurt that the team practiced in front of impressive crowds this year.
Thanks to the work of city, state and university officials, St. Joseph is able to make a convincing case that training camp belongs at Missouri Western in 2020 and beyond, not because it would be neat but because it makes the most sense for an NFL team with high hopes for its future.