Chiefs training camp is returning to Western


The Kansas City Chiefs and Missouri Western were all over the news at the start of the spring semester after a new contract extension was agreed upon to bring the team back to St. Joseph in the summer of 2018. But what most people don’t know is what is actually contained in those Chiefs contracts.

The agreement, announced in January 2018, was the third contract made with the Chiefs. The first was a 5-year deal in 2009, which was followed by a 3-year deal in 2014. But unlike the last two contracts, there will be no huge structural difference made. According to Kansas City Chiefs Director of Events Jeremy Slavins, the one-year option in this contract offers flexibility to both sides.

“In the end, it [one-year option] just provides us both flexibility, so if there’s ‘can we complete another year of this,’ or if something didn’t work, or we needed to tweak this or tweak that, then we weren’t locked in 100 percent and we’d have that option, either side, to make some changes and ask for something here or there,” Slavins said.

Agreeing to the second year would mark 2019 the Chiefs’ tenth summer spent on Western’s campus, and both sides are hoping to make that happen according to Director of Athletic Facilities Mike Holloran.

“I think they’re [Chiefs] awesome,” Halloran said. “What I like the most about working with them is they say, ‘how does that work for you?’ They don’t demand. They don’t come in and plaster arrowheads everywhere. They truly embrace that they’re guests here for three weeks and appreciate what we do and how we do it. I hope they’re back. I think it’s a great thing for our community. I think it’s a point of pride for our university.”

In a time where many NFL teams are starting to host training camps at their home bases, Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid is still a fan of getting off-site and creating a boot camp-type atmosphere. Additionally, returning to Missouri Western would be a testament of the past eight years Slavins says.

“Right now, we’re focused on coming back to Missouri Western,” Slavins said. “They’ve done a really great job for us the last eight years and we’re looking forward to coming to St. Joe and having camp there again this summer.”

In the beginning, there was a lot more involved in bringing the Chiefs to Western than just an agreement between the organization and the school.

Before coming to Western, the Chiefs held their training camp in River Falls, Wisconsin for 20 years. However, the governor at the time, Jay Nixon, was really pushing for the Chiefs to hold their training camp in Missouri. The Chiefs then created a stipulation with the state of Missouri to hold their summer training camp in the state of Missouri for 10 years starting in 2009.

The Chiefs were looking at other options besides Western, but President Robert Vartabedian explained that there was power on Western’s side.

“We just kind of had a nice situation with the chair of our Board of Governors, Dirck Clark, and one of the most powerful politicians in the state senate with a considerable amount of prestige and seniority, Charlie Shields, were really pulling for us,” Vartabedian said.

The first contract was a 5-year contract from 2009-2014. Most of the contract was stipulations dealing with behind-the-scenes agreements and conditions, but it also involved the building of the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex.

The contract addressed items such as Western being responsible for maintaining facilities used by the Chiefs in “clean, safe, sanitary and good condition and in compliance with all applicable laws.” These facilities provided by Western to the Chiefs included Leaverton and Vaselakos Halls, meeting rooms, Blum, Kemper Recital Hall, Looney Complex and Spratt Stadium. Services included storage, locks and keys to all facilities, security and staffing, shuttles to and from all of the facilities, fuel, office supplies, practice equipment, ice and food.

Food was provided based off of a Chiefs menu for nutritional reasons. Telephone and technology were to be provided, and Western was also made responsible for parking and concessions and allowed to charge spectators for both.

Western was also given the right to make money off of sponsorships, but not merchandise, and was required to provide all of the same amenities to other NFL teams the Chiefs may be scrimmaging that the Chiefs receive.

The big kicker was the building of a new indoor facility.

In the 2009 contract is a sort of grocery list provided by the Chiefs of what needed to be done to make Western’s athletic facilities compatible for an NFL training camp.

When the original deal was struck between the Kansas City Chiefs and Western, the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex (GISC) did not exist. It was attached in the original contract that Western would have to build a climate-controlled indoor football facility, complete with, but not limited to, offices, meeting and lecture rooms, showers and locker rooms and weight and athletic training facilities complete with equipment.

The contract strictly laid out the requirements for the new facility, and Western had to agree to the Chiefs’ construction plan, as well as raise enough funds to provide for the difference between the Chiefs’ contribution and the total cost of construction.

Athletic Director Josh Looney worked for the Chiefs during the first seven years of training camp in St. Joseph, and got to experience camp from Western’s side this past year.

“The training room here, that looks just like the training room at Arrowhead,” Looney said. “The same tables that our athletes are getting treatment on are the same training tables and look and whirlpools that they have at Arrowhead. The football locker room, those lockers they have in there are simulated to what they have at Arrowhead,” Looney said.

The Chiefs’ contribution from the original contract was $10 million to go towards the construction of the indoor facility. The total cost of construction was $10.3 million not including equipment for the weight and training rooms. Western received financial help from the community to cover the rest of the cost after the Chiefs’ $10 million.

Halloran believes that the building of the GISC was huge for Western.

“I think it’s very functional,” Holloran. “It’s an awesome facility for them, but for a little more than 11 months a year, it’s an unbelievable facility for our student athletes and students. At whatever point they choose to walk away, we still have… the Griffon Indoor Sports Complex, which is special for our community and special for our university.”

The City of St. Joseph and Buchanan County covered the rest of the cost for the GISC, as well as all of the equipment that had to be put into the weight, sports medicine and meeting rooms and anything else that an NFL team would need to make a summer training camp possible. Western received $2.5 million from the city and $1.5 from Buchanan County at the beginning of negotiations with the Chiefs.

Western has also been able to raise a little money of their own through the Max Experience. Chiefs officials told Director of Athletics Dave Williams that the $5.5 million bond towards capital improvements of athletic facilities on campus make training camp possible. Western has been able to complete the building of the indoor field, resurface the basketball gym floor, update Spratt Stadium and create the Spring Sports Complex thanks to the Max Experience.

The second contract was agreed upon in 2015 and was a 3-year extension of the original contract. Most terms were unaffected, but more dorm rooms were to be provided, a termination section added and a 24/7 on-call Western employee was needed. Not to mention the updating and care-taking of the two practice fields.

The practice fields were already in place but the second contract stated that they needed specific updates. No money was provided by the Chiefs for this update. It was solely at Western’s expense to follow the list of required improvements provided in the contract. These included removing soil, stripping the current field, extending the fields, demolishing part of a road, relocating parking and rezoning sprinklers.

The total cost of the practice field updates was $537,085, but Western received over $575,000 from community support in 2014 to cover the cost of the improvements.