The Vikings’ busy offseason moved Tuesday to Eagan where, for the second time in less than two weeks, the team celebrated construction of a new development, this time a practice complex and corporate headquarters.
Privately funded by team owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, the Eagan complex will become the team’s new home after the 2018 Super Bowl when for the first time in a decade, the team’s executives and practice facilities will be in the same complex.
“U.S. Bank Stadium is our stage, our end result,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said. “This is going to be our home.”
The dirt-turning ceremony came a day before U.S. Bank Stadium was to open for a soccer match. The Vikings play their first preseason game there Aug. 28. Now operating from its 35-year-old Winter Park home in Eden Prairie, the team also uses office space in two other buildings, including one in downtown Minneapolis.
Minutes before the shovels went into the ground, Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren announced that new headquarters would be called Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) Performance Center. TCO purchased the naming rights — for an undisclosed amount — for the next 20 years and announced its intention to build an 88,000-square-foot clinic next to the Vikings’ complex.
In all, the former Northwest Airlines property, acquired by the Wilfs in a surprise move a year ago, encompasses 200 acres, 40 of which will be developed immediately for the Vikings’ new home and the orthopedics clinic. In future phases, the development is expected to include a hotel, conference center, retail, restaurants, housing and office space. The team has talked about a 15-year progression but has given no details.
Excavators and front-end loaders for the Vikings’ facility crawled across the dirt behind the stage filled with team and Eagan officials. Unlike the housewarming events at U.S. Bank Stadium, the mood was all celebration, superlatives, cupcakes and lemonade without the history of bitter political skirmishes in Minneapolis.
In slightly more than a year of talks, Eagan city leaders have embraced the team with a bear hug of unanimous votes and expressions of welcome. Eagan already voted to rename Northwest Parkway to Vikings Parkway.
Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire has been an enthusiastic partner. He said the Wilfs haven’t asked for tax abatements or subsidies, but the city will help with the cost of doubling the parkway to four lanes and adding roundabouts to manage the additional traffic expected.
To him, the project is a “revitalization” of a corner of Eagan just minutes from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that was once slated to become one of the “Dales” shopping centers but has been fallow since Delta acquired Northwest and moved its operations south.
Seated on metal risers on the parking lot outside the building that housed Northwest Airlines’ flight simulator training facility and corporate headquarters, everyone in the crowd of a couple hundred dripped sweat and reached for the plentiful ice buckets with bottled water.
Mark and Zygi Wilf had been expected, but team vice chairman Lenny Wilf stood in, saying his cousins had a “family matter” back home.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted that the weather was significantly warmer than when he was in town for the playoff game in January.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer brought three players up from training camp in Mankato: Teddy Bridgewater, Harrison Smith and Laquon Treadwell.
Spielman declined to give a clue as to whether the team would stay in Mankato after the new headquarters opens in 2018. The team’s contract runs through 2018 in Mankato.
The team’s new home features state-of-the-art video and digital capabilities as well as six full-sized playing fields, including a stadium that can play host to high school football games and other activities. The indoor field will have a roof high enough for punters to practice.
Eastview football captain and linebacker David Arndt is a senior, so he won’t get a chance to play in the new facility. “It would be amazing because it’s right here in Eagan,” he said.
The Vikings will have much nicer behind-the-scenes accommodations, too: bigger locker rooms, better weight rooms and treatment areas and a comfortable theater for game preparations.
Spielman said the new digs were designed in consultation with Zimmer to meet player needs — such as a stretching area in the film theater.
Lenny Wilf told the crowd, “Our hope is to deliver a facility that will match U.S. Bank Stadium.”