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Campus, community show appreciation for Chiefs

December 7, 2006

In honor of the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club’s dedication to UW-River Falls, the University will present the organization with the Outstanding Service Award during the fall commencement ceremony Dec. 16.

Chiefs Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Denny Thum will accept the award.

“[The organization] is very excited to receive the award,” Thum said. “We have had a great relationship over the past 16 years with the University and the community.”

The Chiefs have been holding training camp at UWRF for 16 years, and the organization was nominated for the award because of its significant contribution to the University and the River Falls community.

“The Chiefs have benefited the University and community in so many ways,” said Mary Halada, vice chancellor for administration and finance. “To me, the greatest advantage is the students’ experience that is associated with [the team’s] training camp.”

Halada, along with Public Affairs Director Mark Kinders, Camp Coordinator Larry Testa, and UWRF Registrar and former Chiefs Intern Dan Vande Yacht, wrote letters of recommendation for the organization to the Faculty Senate External Relations Committee.

“I think it’s a long overdue recognition,” Kinders said. “There are numerous reasons why they deserve the award.”

Since the Chiefs have been training at UWRF, the organization has done many things for the region, given the University name recognition and endorsement, offered internship opportunities to students and helped fund improvements for facilities.

“The people have done a good job hosting us and letting us be a part of their community,” Thum said.

Prior to the Chiefs training at UWRF, many people were not familiar with River Falls and the University.

“Every day the team is in camp, our name is out there,” Kinders said. “Through gross media impressions, people hear our name.”

The most significant effect the Chiefs have had on the community and University is economic.

“For UWRF and the St. Croix Valley, the impact has been extraordinary,” Kinders wrote in his letter of recommendation. “[There have been] $35 million in economic impact and 150,000 visitors to the campus.”

Halada said the community earns $1 million to $2 million each year when the Chiefs spend money in the community and bring fans in during the summer months.

“[They bring business into the community] in what is normally kind of a downtime,” she said.

While the organization is training during the summer, many events are planned for Chiefs fans, including Kids and Senior Days, Family Fun Night and competitions.
“It’s a great way to draw the University and community together,” Halada said.

The organization has affected UWRF by helping to fund many projects, such as allowing for the irrigation of all four football fields and the $3 million remodeling project for Hunt Arena and Knowles Center.

In the summer of 2005, 12,300 square feet were added to Knowles, which included locker rooms, restroom and shower areas, a training room and workroom, remodeling for offices and the laundry area, and air conditioning.

“The Chiefs lobbied [the government] to get improvements in Knowles Arena,” Kinders said. “If it weren’t for the Chiefs, we would still be with a space deficit.”

The addition was part of an effort to keep the Chiefs here.

“The state gave 75 percent of funding to keep the Chiefs here,” Halada said. “They had received other offers from schools around the nation, but they chose us.”

Concession stand profits have also helped UWRF.

Halada said the gazebo and pavilion at Ramer Field were funded with these profits, as well as classroom remodeling and equipment.

While the community and University have benefited significantly from the economic impact, students have benefited another way.

Since training began on campus, the Chiefs organization has provided 70 students majoring in communications fields with internships.

“[The internships] have given students immersion into the top-rank professional experience,” Kinders said.

In his letter of recommendation, he wrote, “The Chiefs have been tremendous mentors to our students, and have always been gracious in providing them with the information they need to complete their assignments, as well as giving them guidance on their career aspirations.”

Senior Jude Harder is a marketing communications major and one of the many students who interned with the Chiefs last summer.

“I am pursuing a career in the field of professional sports, either in marketing, public relations or journalism, hopefully,” Harder said. “The internship with the Chiefs encompassed all of those fields, so it was a good chance for me to test them and see what I liked best.”

Harder said a big part of his job was interviewing fans and posting stories on the organization’s Web site.

“What I learned most from the experience is that having good people and communication skills can get you very far in the fields of marketing and journalism,” he said. “I also learned that Kansas City folk love their Chiefs and come from all over to catch a glimpse of them at summer training camp.”

Thum said when the Chiefs first made the decision to train at the University, they knew they had a winner. The football club has the option to renew its contract with UWRF every year.

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