Kansas City Chiefs President Mark Donovan met with the media for a brief Q&A on Friday morning before training camp kicks off on Saturday. Here’s a transcript of what was discussed.
Q: There are many teams in the NFL that have opted to stay at their own facility for training camp. What does coming to St. Joseph and Missouri Western State University do for you guys?
DONOVAN: "That's a trend that has happened over the last decade. As you look at the number of teams that were going away 10 years ago versus how many are going away now, I think it is less than 15 -- it might even be less than 10 in the NFL who go away. A couple of factors play in for us. Number one, (Head Coach) Andy Reid. He likes being away at this time to build the camaraderie. Brett Veach, our general manager, also thinks it's an advantage to get the guys away. You eat together, you sleep together, you play together, you practice together, you meet together, you're around each other a lot more. Especially as you get into the season with new guys coming in, it's a great introduction to our culture as a team and as an organization. Coach specifically, and he has mentioned it and I do believe he will mention it again, we see it. Our players feed off the energy. It is a little different when you're practicing in front of the fans than when you are just grinding, especially when you get to the second half of camp. We think that's a big advantage. The other point that I make is that not every situation is like this. It is so efficient; it has the advantages that it has. We talked about the partnerships, they all matter. To have Mosaic so close, to have the university be able to be as responsive as they are, and to be in it for 10 years, there is a comfort level here. We feel good about what we do. Other teams like what they do. We have obviously looked at all of the options and we have looked at moving it back to our facility, which we could do, and we'll investigate that as we move forward. But we really like it and I think this trend, while we're probably out of the norm from the majority, we really like what we do."
Q: Do you foresee a multi-year deal with Missouri Western?
DONOVAN: "As I've said, we've had a great relationship here. It's been 10 years. You guys ask the question every year, so I think everybody knows that this is the last year of our requirement to be in the state of Missouri and to be in St. Joe. We will do what we always do, which is we'll get through this camp and at the end of camp, we'll sit down with (Missouri Western State University Director of Athletics) Josh (Looney) and (Missouri Western State University President) Matthew Wilson, talk about what went well and what went wrong for both sides and figure out what we do going forward. We've had a great relationship. 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, so we look forward to that conversation."
Q: Is it important for the fans to come out to training camp?
DONOVAN: "Yeah, it's real important for them to come out here. 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. 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. You wouldn't believe how many people ask me if I'm flipping pancakes on Sunday morning, which we do on an annual basis. It matters to them. It's also, for our fans, a way for us to deliver even more value to our Season Ticket Members. We do things special for our Season Ticket Members that creates that value, so we look at that opportunity. I'll also give a speech tonight to our team and I will make the point that every single point of contact is an opportunity. You may think you're an unsigned rookie who's not going to make the team or you may think you're the biggest free agent signing in the NFL, but when that little fan comes up to you and asks for an autograph, that's an opportunity. We see it. It resonates. With research, the average fan becomes a fan before the age of 12. Once they're a fan, they stay a fan of that team, 98-percent of them do. The opportunity to create that bond and that player, whoever it is, can create that bond, it's an opportunity for them."
Q: I think it was this time last year that we asked you what the Patrick Mahomes effect might be, just because of uncertainty. One year later?
DONOVAN: "It's been real (laughter). When you look at what Patrick did on the field, first and foremost, and then – and I say this all the time, it is more than Patrick, right? At every level. Patrick can't have his success and have the confidence he has without all the surrounding parts: coaches, players, the team performance. Patrick understands that. I think specific to your question, you look at the impact he's had on our business, it's the same – it's multi-layered. Patrick specifically has benefited a lot. He has benefited us in terms of a lot of our big partners are partners with Patrick. It is a great activation point, but that's creating opportunities for other players. I think you're going to see that as we continue to move forward."
Q: As you know, this season is the 50th anniversary of the Chiefs Super Bowl winning season. Is the organization going to do anything with the fans to honor that?
DONOVAN: "We are. We have a lot of celebrations this year; 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, 60th season for the Chiefs, 100th season for the NFL. We'll be doing a little bit for each one of those. I will tell you that our focus is going to be our 60th season. A couple of things that I would mention that I am really proud of. First is the Lamar Hunt Legacy Seat. You may have heard about this. We are actually putting a seat in the stadium that will honor Kansas Citians and fans from across the country who really signify and reflect the same values that we have, Win with Character, Unite our Community, Inspire our Fans and Honor Tradition. That is an example. We will also do a really cool thing around 60th and 100th with the NFL with our Fantennial Weekend. We are going to do something that entire weekend. We are going to take executives and former players and go to a high school game, be a part of the coin flip and part of that game on Friday night. Saturday night, have a big event. Then Sunday, bring that team back to Arrowhead and they'll be a part of our game. Just a way to sort of solidify that relationship and continue to build that. There is a lot more there that I don't have off the top of my head, but each one of those celebrations will have a piece."
Q: Along those lines of the celebration aspect, what are your thoughts about Tony Gonzalez and Johnny Robinson being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
DONOVAN: "Huge year for us as an organization to have both of them go in. Both really, really deserve to be there and happy for both to be there. Really happy for Johnny to get in, it has been overdue. Tony, obviously, a guy who I think we all knew was going to get in and deserves to get in. Every year that we have a Chief going in, it is an opportunity to take a step back and look at this franchise, what we've done and the special players who have been a part of the franchise. There will be some really, really cool celebrations in Canton around that. We will celebrate it throughout the year. I would tell you that the Johnny celebration is going to be a little different than the Tony celebration, but they are both going to be fun."
Q: Is that because Tony Gonzalez also played for another team after the Chiefs?
DONOVAN: "Not at all. Not at all. Tony played for a couple of teams. We think Tony is a Chief. We will always think he is a Chief. We have a great relationship with Tony. I think one of the things that gets lost in this, if you're a player and you have played for a bunch of teams, you're in a tough spot, right? You have to take care of all of the fans. Tony is a Chief and we appreciate what he did for us as an organization."
Q: You mentioned other venues have spoken to you about training camp. What factors go into those conversations to determine whether you want to stay here or go somewhere else?
DONOVAN: "A lot of factors go into it. I mentioned when I answered the question about why we do this. That matters to us. Somebody would have to create a similar environment that allows that to build. They're out there and they have expressed interest. We will see. It is part of my job to take all of the information in, do the due diligence, make the best decision for the organization. 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.’ 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. I know it's the biggest question of the day because we're here. I would tell you that our relationship with St. Joe, and with Missouri Western specifically, is really good. We've had our stumbles. We've had our obstacles that we've had to come over and we just find ways. That's what we will do with this. We'll just take a step back after camp. We'll sit down and we'll talk about what's out there, we'll talk about what they want to do, and we'll make a decision."
Q: What is your view on the way the Tyreek Hill situation unfolded and what your message might be to fans who are perhaps conflicted about it?
DONOVAN: "I am going to stand on the statement that we made when the league made their decision. I am not going to add to that. I have said off the record and on the record that our organization takes every situation the same way; we are going to gather the best information we possibly can, we are going to evaluate that information and we are going to wait until we have all the right information, as good as we can get, and then we are going to make the right decision for this organization. I am proud of the fact that we continue to do that. Our fans should know that, that is the process we will go through and that is the process that we will continue to go through."
Q: Is the idea for the franchise to keep training camp within the state of Missouri or is there any potential for it to leave Missouri, if overwhelmed?
DONOVAN: "It is hard to answer that question because I can't tell you everybody who is bidding on it or who wants to bid on it right now. So, I don't want to sit here and say, 'That is a really important point,' and then somebody comes from a different state and blows us away with an offer. Then we say, 'We went there,' and then we have people in this group criticize me for saying something that I didn't before."
Q: But it is an option to be elsewhere if it presents itself?
DONOVAN: "The deal that we did with the state and the deal that we did with Missouri Western was actually five plus five (years), but 10 years within the state. We felt that was important when we did the deal. Missouri is a very, very big part of the Kansas City Chiefs and that will factor into our decision. But the Kingdom is large and there are opportunities out there that we haven't even uncovered yet. It is a little premature to say that we are going one way or the other. We are here in St. Joe. We are going to have a great camp in St. Joe. We are excited about St. Joe."