Nancy Barnes: On the way: Two new websites for sports fans

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES , Star Tribune editor
  • Updated: August 30, 2009 - 11:32 PM

We know you're out there -- in abundance. This fall, we'll offer you a pair of highly interactive gathering spots covering the Vikings and prep sports.

I don't need to tell our readers that Minnesotans are passionate about their sports.

Here's just one measure: We had record traffic to our website -- more than 5.4 million page views -- the day that Brett Favre reversed course (again) and signed with the Vikings. That eclipsed the traffic on election night or even the day that the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed -- previous record days. We simply cannot write enough about the Vikings to satisfy their fans.

That passion for the game doesn't end with Minnesota's pro sports teams, however. It spills over to our kids and the sports they play, from lacrosse to hockey, basketball to football. Families plan their entire year around soccer season, basketball season, football season, swimming season. Having lived in Minnesota for more than six years now, I'd say it's one of the most wholesome aspects of the culture.

With all this interest, our sports staff struggles to adequately serve the information and entertainment needs of a very passionate audience. We have 17 full-time sports writers, divided among high school, college and demanding pro sports beats. Three of those reporters cover high school sports full time. When you consider that we have 140 high schools, with as many as two dozen teams per school, it's easy to understand that some teams feel shortchanged. We've come up with a solution we hope readers will love: We want to partner with you to create two new websites that we hope will become must-see destinations for Minnesota sports fans.

Later this week, we will launch GameFaceMN.com, an online gathering spot for high school sports, with a home page for each school and schedules and scores for every game. Students, parents, coaches and their fans will be able to post stats, photos and videos; chat; participate in polls, and blog. Visitors can vote on which games we should feature each week on the site, rather than have the sports staff decide on its own, and help us with the featured athletes of the week. Comments will be moderated to keep the debate healthy. We hope that by encouraging the community to join in, we'll have a lively, fun interactive site. Visitors to StarTribune.com will go to this site when they come to us for prep sports, but high school sports fans can also find it independently by going to www.GameFaceMN.com on either their computer or their mobile device.

The following week, we will debut AccessVikings.com, a new destination devoted to everything you want to know (or say) about the Vikings. In addition to our professional writers' stories, columns and blogs, we are adding daily video updates, chats, polls, community blogs, and professional blogs. Former Viking Matt Blair has agreed to blog, and we're hoping to get some current cheerleaders to sign on, too. Star Tribune Web users will see this if they visit our site, but they will also be able to visit it independently.

We decided less than two months ago that we wanted these sites; our sports, digital and advertising staff have been working night and day, literally, to get them ready for launch this fall. Traditional news organizations are often criticized for moving too slowly and not acting with enough entrepreneurial spirit. That simply cannot be said of the teams that are working on these projects. They're a model for how we think news organizations need to work in today's hypercompetitive environment.

Come game day, I invite you to join us on GameFaceMN.com and send us your shots and videos of your favorite high school sports teams. And when Brett Favre throws his first touchdown pass of the season (or fumbles), log on to AccessVikings.com and let rip with your thoughts.

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