In final year of contract, Chiefs’ training camp future in St. Joe is a bit uncertain

For the last decade, Missouri Western has been the Chiefs’ preseason home.

The Chiefs have conducted training camp in St. Joseph since 2009, making it the third-longest tenured location in franchise history.

But Chiefs’ contract with MWSU, which was amended in 2015, extended by a year in 2018 and includes a mutual option for 2019, runs out after this camp, and there isn’t a new deal on the table to guarantee the team’s return.

That doesn’t mean the Chiefs’ run in St. Joe is definitely ending, but its future is uncertain.

“My dad was a really big boxing fan and he always used to tell me that, ‘You have to beat the champ, you can’t tie the champ,’” team president Mark Donovan said Friday. “I think somebody is going to have to come in here and overwhelm us to take it away from St. Joe. We’ve had a great relationship here, but those things happen in business, so we’ll see what happens.”

At the end of this year’s training camp, Donovan and the Chiefs will sit down for their annual conversation with the Missouri Western brass, including athletic director Josh Looney, a former Chiefs employee, and president Matthew Wilson. That meeting will help determine the future of the Chiefs’ training camp site while the team also weighs bids from other venues. There’s also the option of following the NFL trend and remaining at the Arrowhead Stadium practice facility for camp.

But luring the Chiefs away from St. Joseph will be difficult.

Before the Chiefs found a home at the Division II campus an hour north of KC, the franchise held camp in River Falls, Wisconsin, from 1991 to 2009. Before that, the Chiefs spent the preseason at William Jewell College in Liberty from 1963-90. There were also short stints for the franchise at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, N.M.

Part of the allure of holding camp in St. Joseph is accessibility for fans.

“I think for our fans, the opportunity to see our players up close and personal, to see them in the grind, but to see them in a format and in a situation where they’re not going to see this anywhere else, it is unique,” Donovan said. “It is a great opportunity. It has been something that I know our fans give us a lot of feedback on every year that they really enjoy.”

Coach Andy Reid has been vocal in his affinity for holding camp at Missouri Western. Staging it away from Kansas City gives the players a unique opportunity to bond with each other and feed off the energy provided by the flocks of fans that line the grandstands and pack the grassy hill overlooking the fields.

“I like getting up here and getting everybody together,” Reid said. “I like that camaraderie part of it, spending the time together. I’m not saying that you can’t do it another way, but I do like this way. I think Patrick (Mahomes) probably said it the best, it is a brotherhood. By the time you leave here, you’re a family, and then you keep building on that.”

Donovan echoed the head coach’s positive feelings about the old-school training camp location.

“We’ve had a great relationship,” Donovan said. “We expect a great relationship going forward. Just managing expectations. As we’ve grown, there has been more and more interest from other venues. Some of them are not realistic.

“But know that we really enjoy St. Joe. There is a lot of efficiency here. There is a lot of comfort here.”

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Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs for the Kansas City Star, where she works to give readers a deeper understanding of the franchise and the NFL through daily stories, game coverage, and player profiles. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C.