MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — For more than four decades, the Vikings season for many fans has started in Mankato. But that yearly trip 60,000 fans make every year might not happen this summer.
Team managers said this week they might have no choice but to skip the trip to Mankato. Businesses in southern Minnesota said they would suffer if that happened.
“There are a lot of people who depend on the Vikings for their money, earning their money every year,” said Wally Boyer, who owns Jake’s Stadium Pizza, which is right across the street from where the Vikings usually practice at Minnesota State University-Mankato.
He gets a big boost in business, he said, when the Vikings come to town and bring their loyal fans with them. He estimated it’s about a 15 to 20 percent boost annually.
“People associate Jake’s with the Vikings when they talk about training camp,” he said while pointing out his collection of Vikings memorabilia. The walls of his pizza place have Vikings jerseys, autographs and plenty of pictures too.
The Vikings have showed up with fans for 40 years, but this year, it could change.
“It would be really sad, not just for us, but for the whole community,” said Boyer.
With news that NFL players and owners can’t agree on a new labor deal, the Vikings just recently notified Minnesota State University-Mankato that they might not need the field.
The Vikings announced this week that they’re going to make a decision on a training camp site by July 18. They said they’ve got to have enough time to get the stadium and all the facilities at the university ready by the start of training camp on Aug. 1.
If the Vikings don’t make it to Mankato, they’ll head to team headquarters at Winter Park in Eden Prairie.
“It’s about $5 million dollars of economic impact on this community,” said Anna Thill, president of the Greater Mankato Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s a lot of impact all around, and there’s a trickle down effect there that goes out throughout the community, whether you’re hospitality, business-related or not.”
Boyer and other business owners hope the Vikings can find a way to get to Mankato.
It’ll be the first time Coach Leslie Frazier will be in charge at training camp. He recently said that he’s most concerned with getting his team ready for the season, not so much where training camp will be held.
But Boyer and others business owners see it differently. They know how important the Vikings are to Mankato.
“Just hope and pray we get it taken care of, and we have training camp here again,” said Boyer.