River Falls Ready For Chiefs

RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Things get a little more red and gold around River Falls, Wis., this time of year. It doesn't signify a season change but the arrival of the Kansas City Chiefs. The team kicks off its 19th consecutive training camp at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Thursday evening.

It doesn't take long to see that the town has been eagerly waiting to greet the Chiefs and their fans. Just head south down Main Street and cross the bridge over the Kinnickinnic River, and you'll see the signs: "Welcome to River Falls Summer Home of the Kansas City Chiefs."

A little further, past the intersection at Main and Cascade, an electronic message board fills you in on all training camp events. Take a left after the sign and you'll see the very place where all the action will occur over the next 22 days. It's peaceful now - the only sounds are a few revs from passing cars and the strides of joggers on their last laps of the trails that wind around Ramer Field before they're reserved for team traffic.

The practice fields are already marked and ready for 80 pairs of cleats to take to them with a fresh coat of paint and manicured grass. Trainer's tents are erected behind the middle practice field. Orange scissor lifts sit parked near the storage shed of the Hunt-Knowles Complex where the team's locker, training and weight rooms are housed. Those lifts are ready to launch the video cameras that will serve as extra eyes, recording the players' performance to be reviewed in the film room.

Take a little jaunt around the parking lot and you'll see several signs and multi-colored flags, marking off the areas reserved for "KCC Personnel Only." If you're feeling like a photo op, make your way to the southeast corner of the parking lot to the left of the information gazebo. A board painted with the KC Wolf waits for heads to enter a hole and flashes to go off.

Get back on Main Street and go north to Econo Foods if you're in the mood for a snack, where you're sure to find sugar cookies dusted with red and gold sprinkles. If you'd prefer not to break your diet to show your team spirit, take a detour and stop in at Foster Sports for something to wear. You can't miss the big glass windows prominently displaying Chiefs apparel and memorabilia.

Stop just about anywhere around River Falls and the odds of seeing a sign that reads "Go Chiefs" or "Welcome Fans" are pretty good. Pull into a gas station and the likelihood of someone talking about camp is almost as good. Grab a latte from Lighthouse Coffee and you may just bump into one of the team's staff members as they boost their energy for the long workday ahead with some good old caffeine.

Hit up Quiznos, ShopKo or McDonalds. It doesn't really matter where you go, Chiefs spirit is all around this quaint little town.

Yes, things are more red and gold around here, a little more Chiefs.

It's almost as if the Chiefs had never left close to 12 months ago, but things are sure to be different this year when camp breaks on Aug. 21 and the team makes their goodbye permanent. It will be different for the franchise, which comes to camp with a new head coach in Todd Haley, a new general manager in Scott Pioli, and a new roster with plenty of fresh faces and new talent to be tested.

This is the time for all those who will don red and gold to show why those colors are displayed proudly. It's time for training camp and that's the time where change can be used for the better. For River Falls, it hopes to be the place where the Chiefs will generate positive momentum for a successful 2009 season.

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