KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A big day for the Kansas City Chiefs will start with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at their new Founder's Plaza in Arrowhead Stadium on Friday morning and wind up with the first workout at their gleaming new practice facility in St. Joseph, Mo.
Goodell will be on hand at the Founder's Plaza when a nine-foot statue is unveiled of the late Lamar Hunt, founder of the Chiefs and the American Football League.
Coach Todd Haley will begin practice a few hours later in the team's new facility in St. Joseph. It will be the first time in 20 years the Chiefs have not camped in River Falls, Wis., and mark the beginning of what Kansas City fans hope will be a sharp upward turn following three dreary losing seasons.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Chiefs had still not announced the signing of safety Eric Berry, their first-round draft pick. But even if Berry does not come in on time, an air of optimism still surrounds the Chiefs, who have won only 10 games the past three years but made significant additions during the offseason.
"I believe we're getting better," said Haley, who was 4-12 in his first season after replacing the fired Herm Edwards.
Less than two weeks before last year's season opener, Haley fired his offensive coordinator and put himself in charge. As a result, the offense struggled for most of the season. But this year he has hired Charley Weis, who used to be his boss at the New York Jets, and turned the play-calling over to him. Or at least most of it.
"I'll still be nearby," Haley said.
Another new addition is running back Thomas Jones, one of the league's top runners last year with the New York Jets who will team with Jamaal Charles for what could be an elite one-two rushing punch. Improvements are also expected at wide receiver and on the offensive line.
One of the league's worst defenses in 2009 did not get as much attention as the offense in offseason player acquisition. But former Cleveland Browns head coach Romeo Crennel is on board as defensive coordinator and he's expected to make a big difference in the way the unit is organized and run.
The Founder's Plaza, on the north side of Arrowhead, is a tribute to the late Hunt, whose heirs now own the team and contributed $125 million to the $375 million that was spent on giving the stadium a vast makeover. Workers this week were still hurriedly applying the finishing touches.
The plaza also commemorates the history of the AFL and includes eight fountains representing the league's original franchises.