Vikings moving training camp to Eagan starting in 2018
MANKATO, Minn. — The Vikings made it official Tuesday: They’ll be leaving Mankato and moving training camp to Eagan starting in 2018.
The team announced July 18 what many fans considered was inevitable. Beginning next summer, camp will be held at its sparkling new state-of-the-art practice facility under construction in Eagan.
“We’re excited about the next step in our franchise,” said Kevin Warren, the team’s chief operating officer.
Mankato has been the team’s preseason home since 1966.
“We’re very grateful, honored and humbled to have had a 52-year-relationship,” Warren said.
The team’s final training camp in Mankato begins Sunday, with select players reporting, and ends Aug. 9.
While the pending move is a loss for the Mankato area, it is another coup for Eagan — a St. Paul suburb of about 66,000 still basking in the team’s 2015 choice to locate its headquarters and practice facility from Eden Prairie, its west metro home since 1981.
“We’re excited to build a new tradition in Eagan, as the year-round home of the Vikings,” Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire said Tuesday in a written statement.
“That’s been the trend,” Warren said. With the move, the Vikings will join 21 other NFL teams that host training camp at their home facilities.
The team’s announcement is hardly a surprise.
In mid-May, during a media tour of construction at the Eagan campus, Warren confirmed that moving training camp in 2018 was a possibility.
Although the team is under contract with Minnesota State Mankato through 2018, there is an opt-out clause that can be exercised Dec. 1, Warren said Tuesday. He said the timing of the announcement gives the university, the Mankato community and fans “an opportunity for celebration. And we’re a taking a stance to do that on our end. So now we’re able to celebrate a 52-year relationship.”
In March, the team will move into its new headquarters and indoor training facility — called the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center — on 40 acres east of Dodd Road and south of Interstate 494.
The development, at the former Northwest Airlines corporate campus, includes five outdoor practice fields (four grass, one synthetic), a 6,000-seat stadium with room to hold up to 10,000 fans, and an 88,000-square-foot, full-service orthopedics center.
“The whole environment that will exist in Eagan will give people a lot of elbow room and a lot of opportunities to come and enjoy watching the Vikings in training camp,” Warren said. “With that said, we’re looking forward to growing our fan experience for fans in the Twin Cities who used to go to Mankato.”
The team’s facilities make up the first phase of a 200-acre planned development called “Viking Lakes” that in the next 10 to 15 years could include a hotel and conference center, retail, restaurants, offices and up to 1,000 rental apartments.
“The next step is working hard on evaluating the hotel situation, as well as other development in that 200-acre parcel,” said Lester Bagley, executive vice president of stadium development and public affairs.
Warren said they have not determined where the players and team staff will stay during camp.
“Those details are being worked out right now,” Bagley said.
Training camp is sure to boost revenues at local Eagan businesses. In recent years, about 60,000 fans on average have traveled to Mankato to watch the camp, which stretches nearly two weeks.
Anna Thill, president of Visit Mankato, the local convention and visitors bureau, said training camp brings about $5 million into the area economy.
“Our businesses that thrive when the Vikings are in town will see a little bit of a pinch now,” she said. “But we have a very diverse economy — and our tourism economy is diverse — and a lot of that is thanks to the Vikings for putting us on the map for so many years.”
She said the writing was on the wall when the team started building the Eagan complex.
“We always kind of figured we’d have to brace for this moment,” she said.
On the flip side, Brent Cory, president and CEO of the Eagan Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the area is anticipating an influx of fans not only for training camp, but also for the team’s planned Friday night high school football games and the possibility of the complex someday hosting the NFL draft.
“We look at training camp as another wonderful opportunity to work with the Vikings to draw more visitors to Eagan,” he said. “It’s obviously a big deal in terms of sheer crowds coming into town.
“We’re very fortunate to have it in Eagan proper, but there’s no question that it’s going to impact other area communities. It’s a great opportunity for all of us.”
Minnesota State Mankato President Richard Davenport noted in a written statement that training camp has been held at the school for more than a third of its 150-year history.
“We have greatly appreciated our relationship with the Vikings through the years, and we will cherish the memories,” he said. “I invite fans from Minnesota and beyond to join us in enjoying one final Vikings training camp this summer at Minnesota State Mankato.”
Warren said he spoke with Davenport and other university leadership on Monday and “expressed our appreciation and just our gratitude for being such great partners over the years.”
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.