For the third straight year, Colorado Springs is the (temporary) home of an NFL team.
The Los Angeles Chargers arrived in town Monday afternoon, ready to spend the week practicing at the Air Force Academy in preparation for next week’s game at a similar altitude in Mexico City against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“This will be the third team now, so hopefully that’s becoming a trend,” said Air Force Academy Athletic Corp. chief program officer Nick Kiger, who helped to facilitate visits from the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams over the past two years as they prepared for games in Mexico City. “That was the hope initially when we started doing this. It sounds like most teams have had a positive experience; it has met their needs on many different levels.”
The most pressing need, obviously, was winning. The Patriots topped the Oakland Raiders 33-8 at Azteca Stadium in 2017. The Rams saw their game in Mexico City moved back to Los Angeles because of field conditions in 2018, but they defeated the Chiefs in a 54-51 thriller after training at the academy.
Both the Patriots and Rams reached the Super Bowl in the seasons they visited Air Force as well.
Air Force reached out to the Chargers immediately after the NFL announced the Mexico City matchup for this season in April. Team officials responded by saying they were about to call the academy, having heard from the Rams about their visit. An agreement was quickly struck.
The Chiefs, for the second straight year, declined the invitation.
The Chargers plan to practice exclusively at Falcon Stadium, though access would be made available to the practice fields and the indoor Holaday Athletic Center should weather force them inside (pleasant forecasts make that unlikely). There are no planned public events, and practices will be closed to fans.
For Air Force, there is little in the way of monetary gain in having NFL teams visit. The Patriots paid about $24,000 for use of the facilities. But the appearance of coach Bill Belichick in an Air Force hoodie, photos of Tom Brady at Falcon Stadium and national news stories made it worth the while.
“For us, the opportunity to push the Air Force message and get our brand out there on a national level is something that’s really important to us,” Kiger said.
The Chargers will hold their first practice in town Tuesday around noon at the stadium and will practice through Saturday before traveling to Mexico City on Sunday for the Monday night contest.