Vikings staffers wove past stacks of blue plastic boxes in the hallways of Winter Park on Tuesday, where they’ve packed up everything but memories in the final week at the 37-year-old Eden Prairie team headquarters.
On Monday, the Vikings open the doors at the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, their new home in Eagan.
“You have some pretty strong memories with the team in this building, but it’s going to be more fun to have everybody together,” said Chad Lundeen, the team’s vice president of operations, a 20-year employee overseeing the move.
The team’s operations, including 250 employees, have been spread over several buildings in Eden Prairie and downtown Minneapolis.
With the exception of the ticket office permanently situated in U.S. Bank Stadium (and the players who are away for the offseason), everyone will be together on Monday. That means no more shuttling across town for staff meetings, new commuting routes and more spacious quarters.
Lundeen rattles off the numbers for the move: 20 truckloads of equipment, 1,500 blue moving crates, 200 rolling wooden carts, hundreds of pictures and pieces of art. After a year of planning, the heavy lifting is happening now.
It’s a major moment for the franchise, leaving behind the southwest metro home that opened in 1981. The facility was named for Max Winter, the man who brought the NFL expansion team to town in 1961. His name will no longer be prominent.
With the not-yet two-year-old U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis and now the new practice facility, the franchise is firmly in the era of the Wilf family. New Jersey real estate scions and brothers Zygi and Mark Wilf purchased the Vikings in 2005 along with their cousin Leonard Wilf.
On Monday, all staff will arrive to work at the brand-new glassy white home along Interstate 494 in Eagan, 20 minutes east of the old place. It’s an unqualified upgrade from the low-slung amalgam of additions that the team long ago outgrew.
The Vikings will get more playing fields, better equipment, more offices and conference rooms, better access to physical treatment, training rooms and a nicer cafeteria overlooking the sylvan parcel that was once home to the world headquarters of Northwest Airlines.
“We are extremely excited with all capital letters,” said Kevin Warren, the team’s chief operating officer.
They can’t pack their memories, but there are some good ones — even if they don’t include a Super Bowl victory.
A big one came on a summer day in 2009, when players and staff were finishing lunch in the Winter Park cafeteria while watching a live news feed of quarterback Brett Favre’s car en route to Eden Prairie.
When Favre’s vehicle rolled up, everyone lined up at the window to watch the surreal scene unfold — hundreds of cheering fans lining the roadway in front of the building. It was an indelible moment.
General Manager Rick Spielman recalled another as he pointed to an office chair. “Jared Allen was sitting right there when he signed his contract,” Spielman said of the star defensive end.
Spielman already has worked his last day at Winter Park. When he returns from the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, he’ll go to Eagan and a whole new setup, including a dedicated high-tech draft day war room.
Much like U.S. Bank Stadium, the new headquarters is an airy, angular structure with lots of windows and natural light. The cafeteria overlooks a playing field. “Do you feel any morale lift when you walk in over there?” Spielman asked rhetorically. “It almost takes your breath away for a minute.”
The cost of the new facility isn’t public, because the Wilfs paid for it. They intend to develop the acreage they own around the facility in phases with a hotel, offices, retail and housing.
Many Vikings employees have worked at Winter Park for decades. Some are finding buried relics. Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley, who has amassed stacks of papers, uncovered former team CEO Roger Headrick’s stadium testimony to the Legislature in 1997.
Public Relations Director Bob Hagan, who’s been with the team for 27 years, is atop the packrat pile. Among the hidden treasures in his office: a bottle of squirrel repellent, a gag gift from his colleagues.
Some big stuff won’t be transferred, including the landmark ship in front of the building. “I don’t think that could be moved,” team spokesman Jeff Anderson said.
Some stuff will be easier than others.
The Vikings staff is accustomed to moving most of the weight equipment once a year — a multiweek process to transfer the machines to training camp in Mankato. Training camp will now be held at the Eagan facility, which comes with its own stadium.
The locker of Korey Stringer, the offensive tackle who died of heat stroke complications at training camp in 2001, remained sealed at Winter Park on Tuesday. Anderson said Stringer will be memorialized in a more public location in the new building.
Spielman said he’s excited about the new equipment, although he isn’t ready to go fully digital for the upcoming draft day. He’s keeping some notecards and a magnetized wall. “There’s a weaning process,” he said.