In a normal year, the Kansas Shrine Bowl holds its East and West team camps concurrently in Ottawa and Salina, respectively.
But 2020 has been anything but normal for the annual All-Star football game due to restrictions from COVID-19.
After changing game locations from Washburn University to Hummer Sports Park earlier this month, Kansas Shrine Bowl executive director B.J. Harris announced the week-long training camps leading up to the game have also changed location.
Instead of being held at Ottawa University and Kansas Wesleyan University, both camps will now be held in Topeka. The East camp will be held at Washburn Rural High School, while the West camp will be held at Shawnee Heights High School.
Both teams will reside at the Downtown Ramada Inn during the week of camp. In most years, dormitories at Ottawa and KWU are used to house the game’s participants and Shrine staff, however due to COVID-19 restrictions those facilities were not going to be available this summer.
"Ever since March we’ve been working on contingency plan on top of contingency plan," Harris said. "There’s no real Plan A, B or C. It’s just kind of a little bit of A, B and C at this point. We’re just fortunate to have a partner in the Ramada Inn. Linda (Shove-Morgan, Director of Sales at Parrish Hotels) and her staff know all about the Shrine and was able to work with us and with the ownership there, made it feasible for us to be able to go to a hotel instead of dorms. That really made a difference.
"And we’re fortunate to have coaches on staff with Washburn Rural and Shawnee Heights and it made it easy for us to go to those guys and they could go to their administrators and both schools were gracious enough to let us use their facilities."
Washburn Rural football coach Steve Buhler is serving as the head coach for the East squad in this year’s game. Shawnee Heights football coach Jason Swift is an assistant for the East squad.
In addition to receiving help from the schools offering up their facilities, Harris said the Shrine Bowl will use transportation from the Topeka Public Schools USD 501 district to shuttle players and coaches from the Ramada Inn to their respective practice sites. Hayden also volunteered use of transportation if more is necessary.
Without college cafeterias to feed the players, coaches and staffs, Harris said a meal plan was an initial hurdle. However, the local Arab Shrine Temple will be assisting in covering some of the needs while Harris said local restaurants have also stepped up to offer their help.
This year will mark the first time in the game’s existence that a shared camp will occur. Harris said the plan will be to return to Ottawa and Kansas Wesleyan next year.
"We feel good about it really," Harris said. "It will be unique having both teams in one place. ... From a logistics standpoint, it does make sense to have them in one location. But having played in the game, it’s good being separated. There’s something about building a team and I’ve said this before that the Jimmys and Joes on the teams are about the same, it’s which group comes together quicker.
"There will be some challenges to keep their players focused on what’s at hand with everyone there together. But it’s nice having all of our staff in one place to allow us to do all things we need to do as far as health and safety to make this a great experience and a safe experience for everyone."
The 47th Annual Kansas Shrine Bowl will be held July 18 with a 7 p.m. kickoff at Hummer Sports Park.