AP: Chiefs giving big boost to Division II Missouri Western

7/22/2010

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — While perhaps exaggerating a bit, Brenda Blessing reflected the feelings of all her excited colleagues when the Kansas City Chiefs unveiled their gleaming new training camp facilities at Missouri Western State University.

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — While perhaps exaggerating a bit, Brenda Blessing reflected the feelings of all her excited colleagues when the Kansas City Chiefs unveiled their gleaming new training camp facilities at Missouri Western State University.

"It's as good as Ohio State's," said Blessing, chairman of the school's health, physical education and recreation department.

Several hundred city officials and university employees were on hand for Wednesday's official dedication of the $14 million project, something the Chiefs hope will help them reconnect with fans and the school believes will provide an overpowering recruiting advantage in Division II.

The Chiefs trained the past 20 years at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, mainly to escape the sweltering heat and humidity of summers in the Midwest. But the state granted a $25 million tax credit in June 2009 to help entice them back to Missouri, and the Chiefs will open their St. Joseph camp on July 30.

Moving back to Missouri was also the implicit promise the Chiefs made if voters in Jackson County, Mo., approved a sales tax increase to fund more than $500 million in improvements to Arrowhead Stadium and the Royals' Kauffman Stadium. The tax was approved, and the new Arrowhead will have its official opening on Monday night, Sept. 13, against AFC West rival San Diego.

The Chiefs hope that returning to Missouri will enable them to bolster interest and attendance that has waned in recent years. St. Joseph is only about 75 minutes from Arrowhead Stadium.

"I would hope we would see crowds during the week in the 5,000-plus neighborhood, and hopefully for our two night practices and our family fun day we should have crowds substantially larger than that," Chiefs president Denny Thum said.

The new facilities were built in less than a year. In case of storms, or if heat and humidity prove overpowering, the Chiefs have a 120-yard climate-controlled field to work in. That will be one big improvement over River Falls.

But if the Chiefs are merely excited about being in St. Joseph, Missouri Western is downright ecstatic.

The Griffons have frequently taken a back seat to Northwest Missouri and Pittsburg State in the 10-team Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. NFL-quality fields and training facilities should be enough to turn any recruit's head.

"It's going to be hard to say no to all this," assistant athletic director Brett Esely said. "I pinch myself every day. As somebody that's a lifelong resident of St. Joseph, been around 12 years in a working capacity, it's hard to believe I'm standing here on our campus right now. It's a showplace. It's awesome."

Football coach Jerry Partridge said his school's facilities had been no better than eighth-best in the Division II league. He also said MIAA rivals were telling recruits the Chiefs would never construct training facilities at Missouri Western.

"They would say, 'No, no, it's not going to happen.' And I would have done the same thing," he said.

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