Just about the only thing the new Vikings headquarters in Eagan has in common with the old home at Winter Park in Eden Prairie is the color purple.
“It almost takes your breath away,” team general manager Rick Spielman said of the new white building with “Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center” in purple letters on the side, easily visible from Interstate 494.
The team, which is mostly staff, not players, this time of year, moved into its custom-built home on Monday, permanently vacating the Eden Prairie space that opened in 1981 and was named for the franchise’s founder, Max Winter. On Friday, they opened up the new place for guided tours.
Where the old home was a squat warren of patchwork additions with the design charm of a 1970s basement, the new space is airy, uncluttered and Nordic. The lines are crisp. White is the main color, accented with some wood ceilings and stairs, metal railings, stone walls and subtle kisses of purple. Light flows abundantly into rooms and hallways through many windows.
“This feels like a Vikings home,” said Tanya Dreesen, a team vice president, from her bright office overlooking the still-under-construction stadium as two workers hung paintings on the walls. She pointed to the crisp contours of the building, a nod to the sharp edges of the 18-month-old U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
The move to Eagan was both practical and a complete upgrade from the team’s starter Eden Prairie headquarters, which the franchise had long ago outgrown. Office space was in such short supply that staff was spread among several buildings and cities. Technological and training amenities had deteriorated.
That has all changed now.
Spielman, showing off his new personnel and draft room, went so far as to say he’ll now have a “huge competitive advantage” in tracking and moving players. With the touch of a finger, he can change grades and move players across the board. Spielman’s old method: magnets on the wall that he moved by hand.
As for the players, they’ve got two fireplaces in their locker room, with black leather couches and multiple wall televisions. Winter Park had none of that, just rickety folding chairs.
The players get their own auditorium, too, something they never had at Winter Park. The new space has theater seating for 170 and large, cushioned chairs with drink-holders facing a giant screen.
From his spot up front, coach Mike Zimmer will be able to make eye contact — a specific request of his — with every player in the room. The player “auditorium” at Winter Park was a curtained-off corner of the fieldhouse with hard chairs and folding tables that did double duty as a space for news conferences.
Unlike the team’s Winter Park weight room in a bifurcated hallway, the new weight room has two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. Its western wall faces the under-construction stadium, which has seating for 6,500 — expandable to 10,000. Its eastern wall, with windows that can be rolled up like garage doors, opens to four new outdoor practice fields covered in Kentucky bluegrass. The grass was grown in Colorado on a sod farm, driven 14 hours in refrigerated trucks and laid last year.
Two of the fields are heated with 65 miles of underground tubing, according to Chad Lundeen, Vikings vice president of facilities and operations. Running through the tubes: 15,000 gallons of glycol, a chemical compound containing alcohol.
Team trainer Eric Sugarman said the showpiece of the new training facilities is the pools. “We spared no expense here,” he said, standing in front three pools of varying temperatures and depths to accommodate players of all sizes. One pool includes an underwater treadmill that can go 6 feet deep and 8.5 miles per hour — not an easy setting, Sugarman added.
The 40-acre headquarters is part of a 200-acre development that team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf plan to phase in over the next decade. They expect to add office space, retail and housing to the “Vikings Lakes” parcel that was once the world headquarters of Northwest Airlines.
More immediate goals, team vice president Lester Bagley said, are hosting events in the new stadium. Training camp will be held there this summer, and Bagley said the team wants to bring in high school football, soccer and lacrosse games as well as concerts. “The more uses the better,” Bagley said.
The goals for 2018 include hosting two to four high school teams for scrimmages, “Friday Night Lights” rivalry football games and a quarterfinal playoff game.
The team’s partner, Twin Cities Orthopedics, has an 88,000-square-foot treatment and sports medicine center on the Eagan campus and a 20-year pact with the Vikings.
Team executives say the project was built with no public subsidy; the Wilfs paid for it. Future amenities will include a Vikings Hall of Fame that is open to the public and a store.