The Vikings this morning finally announced the obvious and inevitable: they plan to move training camp to their new Eagan facility in 2018.
Last year, the Vikings were one of a dozen NFL teams to hold training camp away from their facility. But with the TCO Performance Center on track to be completed next March, it was only a matter of time until the team officially shared that 2017 would be their last trip to Mankato.
From a logistical standpoint, staying home for training camp makes a ton of sense for the organization, which is why we have seen so many other teams make similar summer relocations over the past decade or so.
For the past 52 years, the Vikings have packed up most of their football operation — including things such as player gear, workout machines and medical equipment — and hauled it all down I-169 to Minnesota State University in Mankato. Not only is that a hassle, it also is not cheap.
“There are many hours, days of logistics — we have people down in Mankato right now — that go into the preparation of training camp, that go into the operation of training camp and go into the breakdown of training camp,” Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said today.
Next year, the Vikings should have everything they need, including more practice fields and a bunch of upgraded technology in house, in Eagan, which Warren said “gives them the best opportunity for success.”
What they will not have, though, is nostalgia of their stays in Mankato.
Long-time Vikings players had a love-hate relationship with their stays on campus. The tiny beds, early curfews and steamy two-a-days will not be missed. But lasting memories were made and camaraderie was forged through the experience, as Chad Greenway recalled for us last summer.
Plus, it will be a daunting challenge for the Vikings to recapture the amazing fan experience they have in Mankato, where fans swarm to get an intimate glimpse at their favorite players, wait in the hot sun for autographs and scream their names as they pedal back to the dorms.
The Vikings will still let fans watch training camp at the TCO Performance Center. But they will be hard-pressed to recreate a similar vibe.
“It really is special, and we’ve very grateful, honored, humbled to have had a 52-year relationship to host training camp,” Warren said, later adding: “Training camp has been a special environment. There have been a lot of memories that people will be able to take with them.”