The eyes of Packer land are once again focused on Green Bay as the NFL season gets closer to opening day. But, clear across the state from Lambeau Field, it's the Kansas City Chiefs who are the center of one Western Wisconsin town—likely for the final time.
For 19 years, the Chiefs have made River Falls their summer home. But, in a few days the team will pack their bags for the last time and head back to Missouri.
For kids from a small town, the chance to watch the guys that made it big can make their summer. And local businesses bank on making bank; setting up signs to lure in the out of towners.
"We are going to miss them and their excitement and generosity,” says Paige Olson. "Go Chiefs!”
Olson runs Kinni Creek Lodge & Outfitters in River Falls. She says while it was nice having an influx of people and their money in town for training camp, the Chief’s move won't have a huge financial impact. But, she says she will miss the players. Priest Holmes signed her guest book back in 2001.
"Sunday morning, I would just cook and cook because they can eat during training camp!" Olson says laughing.
As for the fans who make the 468 mile journey to follow their team, they say it’ll be nice to have the Chiefs closer to home. But, they know it will be a whole different ballgame back in Missouri.
"It's definitely a lot cooler", says one Missouri fan.
"I do like this little town and they've received the Chiefs well," says another fan up from Nebraska.
"I think it's going to be bigger. There will be a lot of people from Kansas City coming up. So, I kind of like it here," says another Nebraska fan.
Even for the players, as they run off the training field for the final time, it will be a bit bittersweet.
"It's been a good experience for me—last year, as a rookie and now this year,” says Chiefs Starting Tackle Branden Albert. “It's something that will probably be engraved in my mind for a while."
The reason for the Chief's big move back to the Show Me State—a $25 million tax credit that allowed them to build practice facilities closer to home. It's a long shot, but if that construction isn't finished in time, the team says the players could be back in River Falls for one more season.
You still have a little time if you want to check out the Chiefs in Wisconsin: They'll be on the field Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here’s the team’s practice schedule at UW-River Falls:
Saturday, Aug. 15
Preseason Game vs. Houston, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 16
Monday, Aug. 17 - Seniors' Day
Practice 19 - 9-11 a.m.
Practice 20 - 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 18
Practice 21 - 2-4 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 19
Practice 22 - 9-11 a.m.
Practice 23 - 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 20
Practice 24 - 2-4 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 21
Preseason Game at Minnesota, 7 p.m.