By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
Entering her 25th season for the Seattle Seahawks, executive assistant Charlotte Kores has seen virtually everything.
She's watched ownership change hands, the near move to Los Angeles, the turnover of management and coaching staffs, while hundreds of players have come and gone. So with next week's transition of moving the NWCN training camp from Eastern Washington University in Cheney back to Kirkland for the third time in those 25 years, who better to articulate what it means to the support staff than the unflappable multi-tasker?
For Kores, like her partners in administration, Jeanne Denkmann, Cindy Kelley, Kim Lindbeck and others who traditionally split time between the two places during camp … it kind of breaks the chain.
"As far as our jobs go, not much changes," Kores said. "But I'm going to miss it. I really did look forward to it. For me it was a two-week break from the rat race of over here (in Western Washington) with all the traffic. You're still doing the same work, but the campus is beautiful and it's a lot more laid back environment. You can walk to everything and that was great, the weather is great with a slow pace.
"But it also gives most of the people that support the staff more time with their families here and kind of make it like the norm. The only real issue is for the fans, and we all feel badly we don't have the ability to open it up here like we did in Cheney. That will change next year."
With the new home of the Seahawks – the all-purpose Virginia Mason Athletic Center opening for camp next summer on the banks of Lake Washington in Renton – the return to Kirkland after 11 years in Cheney came a year early. Initially, it came as a result of an announced two-game addition to the preseason schedule with the New England Patriots – one at Qwest Field and the other in Beijing, China. But the NFL postponed the two-game set and as a result of the commitment to neighboring Northwest University to support camp with housing, dining and parking, the move from Cheney was inevitable.
Because of the closed campus and virtually no space around the practice fields, the Seahawks have moved the intrasquad game to Memorial Stadium at the Seattle Center on Aug. 4, plus practice Aug. 8 to Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus. Handling those will be a piece of cake as opposed to the exorbitant cost and effort it required to move camp to Cheney every year.
Whereas there are some major issues to deal with regarding space and just being in Kirkland for chef Mac McNabb and security director Rick Ninomiya, that's not the case for the staffs responsible for equipment, video, medical and information systems to tear things down, move them 300 miles and do it all over again in a 24-hour turnover coming back.
"Camp for us here obviously means a little more time off for us going into the season and a lot less to do," equipment manager Erik Kennedy said. "It usually takes us about two weeks to prepare. Probably about a month before camp we start packing, then we go over a week before everybody else, set up, then come back home for a couple of days, then go back over for camp.
"The best part about this is it gets rid of the hardest part of training camp. We get about a week to set up, and we get one 18-hour day to move back and set it all up again here. That's the key to us. As far as camp here as far as a football, it's easy … extremely easy. It's just like having mini-camp, except there are two practices and the schedule is a little different. If the guys on our staff want to stay at home at night, they can. If they want to stay on-site they can. I live 30 miles away, it's just easier to stay here because it's such a long day. I'll go home a couple nights a week, but there's always the option to go home and that's a great thing."
It's even better for Allen Olson, with a young child, not having to head to Cheney a month early to set up the computer operation. To move the entire data base twice was a major transition for eight years.
"The advantage is we don't have to pack up and be gone for two months every year," Olson said. "Now I'll just be hanging out here like I do during the regular season. With camp here, I do my job and then I'm home. It's a big difference than taking off to set everything up before anybody else gets there, then staying, packing it all up, bringing it back and unpacking.
"We've been taking 65 people with their equipment and built a network over there every year. Besides, the obvious expense, there was so much involved with the hardware, the software and the printing hassles – now we're just right here at home where everything is already in place to do things in house. There will be some situations because we've got coaches in remote locations that will still want to do their stuff, but that will be easy in comparison."
Like Kores entering her 25th season, Cindy Kelley had to do her job setting up human resources in Cheney before returning to Kirkland to resume responsibilities here. She didn't view as a respite as much as a necessity that required less time as the years went by. Not only had she become more adept at setting up the employees and payroll, but the extraordinarily helpful staff at Eastern University garnered so many employees for the Seahawks, she spent less and less time in Cheney anyway.
"Pretty much everything will be the same for me – with training, time cards and working with supervisors and all that," Kelley said. "But in some ways it's more work coming back. It's a transition, plus with all the hiring and catering that Eastern would typically do for us, we there are things we're doing that we haven't done for the 11 years we were in Cheney."
In some ways, trainer Sam Ramsden and his crew enjoyed having the facilities as Eastern because there was so much space for the multiple sports at a large university. That's particularly true because they have more than 80 players to deal with during training camp.
Consequently, Ramsden has to bring in some extra hot and cold tubs in temporary locations outside the building in Kirkland to ease things.
"Overall, it's much easier obviously to be here," Ramsden said. "The training room is right by the field, the doctors are in town, everything simplifies things for us. The space we had at Eastern was great, but when you add in all the packing and unpacking we did, this is much easier. And the ground is much softer here than it was in Cheney because it's so dry over there. That should help the players too – playing on the softer turf here."
And even though the coaches are all staying at camp instead of going home, Denkmann doesn't believe things will be that different for coach Mike Holmgren and his staff. She's been with the team since 1995, so she knows what it was like when they first moved to Cheney.
"I don't think it will change things much from the regular season other than more players around," she said. "But I think the change will be good. With everything being here, it will get everybody energized for the season in the Seattle area earlier with so much attention being on camp here. It's just exciting to know camp is starting, but this year we don't have to go anywhere."
And yet, going to Cheney had become part of the deal. All the sunshine, hot weather and slow pace represented training camp from 1976-85 and 1997-present. Soon, it will become ancient history – embellished stories of the days at Eastern will become the stuff of Seahawks folklore.
"For the team, it will just be easier here," Kores said. "The only down part about it is the fans can't come to practice. It's unfortunate but there's no way for that to happen because there's no room. People would travel Cheney from here, Oregon and all over the Northwest. That will change when we move down to Renton.
"I will miss it. It just became part of the season for me. I've got relatives in Spokane, had opportunity to visit with them. I've always enjoyed it. It was just a nice place to be. It was comfortable to stay there, we'd walk everywhere and our meals were cooked for us. It was comfortable. But for most people I think, it will be nice to be home."