By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Missouri Western and St. Joseph saw record attendance and interest in Kansas City Chiefs' training camp in the summer of 2019.
The Chiefs were just coming off of an appearance in the AFC Championship game, and were gearing up for an eventual Super Bowl 54 victory in February 2020.
A month later, COVID-19 shut everything down and the NFL didn't allow teams to travel to their usual training camp sites.
In the months that have followed, Missouri Western leadership, along with elected officials in St. Joseph and Buchanan County, have worked tirelessly to bring training camp back to the site it's been held at since 2010.
Those efforts paid off.
After a temporary relocation to Kansas City last year due to COVID-19, the Kansas City Chiefs formally announced Wednesday that their training camp will return to Missouri Western State University this July.
"It's taken many movements and changes in protocols to get here," said Missouri Western athletic director Josh Looney. "Heavy lifting by numerous people here at Missouri Western, by President Kennedy and elected officials in our city and county. Also, Mosaic Life Care, who's our primary sponsor and healthcare partner for training camp."
The camp, which will be at Missouri Western for an 11th year this July, will be open to fans again as well.
Training camp practices start July 28 and will conclude on August 18.
Due to heightened demand, attendance at daily practice will be limited to provide the best fan experience.
But having fans back at all, Looney says, is the most important thing.
"At the end of the day, we're excited to announce that camp is returning," he said. "There will be thousands of people here every single day. Just an exciting time for St. Joseph, Missouri Western and for the Chiefs as well."
New this year, all training camp tickets must be reserved in advance through the Chiefs Kingdom Rewards program at www.chiefskingdomrewards.com.
Ticket reservation will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 7. Fans can reserve a maximum of four tickets per practice and can reserve tickets for a maximum of three separate practices. All tickets are mobile entry only.
New bleachers and berm seating have been implemented to allow for a maximum number of fans, and to allow for the best spacing at the Mosaic Training Fields, according to Looney.
"Right now, any limitations we have to fan capacity are not COVID related," he said. "It's about fan experience, and the enhancements we've put there with additional fan seating and the additional berm, knowing that demand will be very high. So, there'll be some differences to entry and exits and changes to access to players and no autographs."
Having training camp back in St. Joseph is not only beneficial for Missouri Western, but also for area businesses, who missed out on a major economic boost last summer.
Kennedy says training camp typically brings in about $20-$30 million in commerce to the St. Joseph area.
"When you see the number of folks here, everyone has to eat and everyone gets gas and everyone participates," she said. "Plus, it's an opportunity for people outside of our community to see St. Joseph and see how wonderful it is. What a great place it is to raise your family, to live here and the economic opportunities as well."
The biggest benefit for Missouri Western, Kennedy says, is the huge exposure that training camp brings to the campus.
"It brings attention on a national and even international level that we probably would not get otherwise," Kennedy pointed out. "I think with our facilities and (Spratt Stadium), it's a wonderful way to show the nation, our state and region what Missouri Western has to offer as a campus. We're very pumped about this."
Having training camp back in St. Joseph is a huge step toward normalcy - both for the Chiefs and the city.
Looney says the fan experience will be fairly similar to what it's been like in the past, but the common observer likely won't see all of the work that's gone on over the last several months.
All of the back-and-forth communication between the University and Chiefs' front office to make training camp 2021 a reality.
"There's a lot that's gone on behind the scenes that the fans won't see," Looney said. "But, things have changed on our staff. But, it's been working with the Chiefs to make that happen. They've been wonderful. We've been confident all along that as long as both parties felt we could meet whatever regulations there are, that they would be back here."
Additional training camp info, schedule
Nearly all training camp practices will be free to the public. Missouri Western will charge a $5 admission fee on three practice days – July 30, July 31 and August 8. There will be a $5 parking fee each of those days, and cash will be accepted for that.
The Chiefs will host two free, exclusive Season Ticket Member Days that won't be open to the public. Those will be July 28 and August 10. Parking will be free on both of those days.
Additional camp details will be communicated to ticket holders via email in the weeks leading up to training camp. All ticket reservations and purchases are subject to the Chiefs ticket terms found at www.chiefs.com/tickets/terms/.
Per Missouri Western policy, all parking and paid admission date ticket sales are final.
All practice times and dates are subject to change and all practices will be on the Mosaic Training Fields.
All practices, except for the final day of camp, will begin at 9:15 a.m. Weather and field conditions are evaluated daily. If practice is moved indoors due to poor conditions, it will be closed to the general public and fans will notified beforehand.
Chiefs Training Camp Dates and Times
Wednesday, July 28 Practice – 9:15 a.m. -Exclusive Season Ticket Member Day presented by GEHA (Not Open to Public)
Thursday, July 29 Practice – 9:15 a.m. -First Practice Open to the Public
Friday, July 30 Practice – 9:15 a.m. -$5 Admission Fee
Saturday, July 31 Practice – 9:15 a.m. -$5 Admission Fee
Sunday, Aug. 1 No Practice
Monday, Aug. 2 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 3 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 4 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 5 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 6 Practice – 9:15 a.m. - Chiefs Alumni Day, Gatorade Junior Training Camp
Saturday, Aug. 7 No Practice
Sunday, Aug. 8 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Family Fun Day -- $5 Admission Fee
Monday, Aug. 9 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 10 Practice – 9:15 a.m. -Exclusive Season Ticket Member Day presented by GEHA (Not Open to Public)
Wednesday, Aug. 11 No Practice
Thursday, Aug. 12 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Friday, Aug. 13 No Practice
Saturday, Aug. 14 Preseason Game No. 1 – Chiefs at 49ers – 7:30 p.m. CT
Sunday, Aug. 15 No Practice
Monday, Aug. 16 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 17 Practice – 9:15 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 18 Practice – 8:15 a.m. - Military Appreciation Day presented by GEHA – Final Camp Practice
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.