Chiefs have to decide whether to continue holding training camp in St. Joseph

07/20/2014 7:00 PM

07/21/2014 1:23 PM

When Chiefs coach Andy Reid stepped outside of his team's dormitory to address the media for the beginning of training camp on Sunday, the very first thing he did was thank the host city and host school.

“Good to be back up here in St. Joseph,” Reid said. “Obviously, the people here at Missouri Western are phenomenal. They take great care of us. Coming in last year as a new staff, we appreciated the hospitality, the way they went about business and how they always seemed like they were always one step ahead of us.”

This was not the first time Reid has been complimentary of the hosts; he did so, repeatedly, last season. But for all the work the city and school have done to make the Chiefs feel welcome over the last several years, they understand there's still no guarantee the team will return next season.

This marks the final guaranteed year of the original 10-year contract between the Chiefs and the school, and Brett Esely, Missouri Western's associate director of athletics for external relations, said the Chiefs now have five one-year options to keep the camp in St. Joseph.

The Chiefs’ front office has been quiet on the issue, but teams in the league are trending toward staying at their home facilities for training camp. This year, 18 of the 32 teams (56 percent) will be “staying home” for training camp, compared to only five of 31 teams (16 percent) in 2000.

Esely, who said the Chiefs have until Dec. 1 to make up their mind, made it clear the school is hoping for only one outcome.

“Training camp has been huge for Missouri Western and huge for the community,” Esely said. “We hope they choose to come back. We hope they stay here forever.”

The desire to keep the Chiefs in town makes sense. According to a 2012 study conducted by the city, approximately 23,205 out-of-town visitors — 1,365 visitors per practice — are expected to spend more than $3 million in St. Joseph during the three-week camp.

The study also revealed that 60 percent of the visitors stayed in St. Joseph hotels, while nearly 40 percent visited the city’s attractions and museums. Meanwhile, fifty-two percent of the visitors dined in local restaurants, and 37 percent shopped in local stores.

“There’s lots of groups here that are concerned, hoping they decide to stay at Missouri Western and St. Joe,” said Kristi Bailey, director of communications at the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. “I know in the end, they'll probably base their decision on the facilities and if they like being so close to Kansas City, but we're just trying to fill the bleachers and show them we're supportive of them. We don't want them to go.”

It sounds as if the school doesn't have much to worry about when it comes to the facilities, at least if you believe Reid.

"This is a great setup,” Reid said. “These are fairly new dorms — or at least well-kept. The food here, the people do a tremendous job with the food. It’s just a short jaunt right to the practice facility, where we really spend the whole afternoon. It’s a good setup. It’s not hilly; when you’re tired, you don’t want to go up and down steps or up and down hills — you don’t have that here, so it’s fine."

Quarterback Alex Smith also likes the location.

“I love going away,” Smith said, “but it’s the perfect distance. We’re away, but we’re not. You get a day off or a night off, you can run back (home) … your family can come up and see you and watch practice. It’s good to be away and spend time with the guys and bond and become a team. The facilities are great, the fields are great, the indoor (facility) is great. As much as you can enjoy camp, I really enjoyed it last year.”

On another positive note, Esely said the school is also optimistic about the fact Reid has long been a believer in taking his team away from its home facilities for training camp.

“Looking at his history, he's used to going away to camp every year,” Esely said. “Coaches are creatures of habit and you hate to predict the future ... but as long as coach Reid and (general manager) John Dorsey are here, we feel pretty good because the relationship (we have with them) is good. But we’re in wait-and-see mode, too, because nothing is certain until they make an announcement.”

Reid, for all his praise, offered no hints on Sunday. When asked if he’d campaign to keep the camp in St. Joseph, Reid deferred to owner Clark Hunt and team president Mark Donovan.

“I’ll leave that up to Mark and Clark,” Reid said. “They do all that part of it, the negotiation part …

“But,” Reid concluded, “we sure have enjoyed it (here).”

The Star's Randy Covitz contributed to this story.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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