Reporting Rachel Slavik
MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — What a difference a year makes. Last summer, the NFL lockout had Vikings’ training camp up in the air. Restaurants and hotels in Mankato had no idea if they’d see the yearly spike in business.
What if the team and fans never made it to town? A deal between the league and players ended that stalemate.
This year, businesses and are hoping it’s business as usual.
Vikings training camp brings in an extra $5 million on average to the city. Businesses hope to make up for it this year since the Vikes will be in town a week longer.
If you want some perspective on the Vikings training camp, it is at Jake’s Stadium Pizza, where owner Wally Boyer and his staff serve their lunchtime pies, with pieces of the team’s past.
For four decades, Wally has seen how changes at training camp can impact business. Last year’s lockout and short training season took its toll.
“Last year it was all up in the air,” he said. “We didn’t know what was happening, almost didn’t have camp.”
But this year, it’s the opposite. With camp extended several days, he knows he will see more business.
“There’s so many more people around that we have the opportunity to get more traffic,” he said. “The 2012 season’s already off to a good start and the players haven’t taken the field.”
At Pub 500, owner Jay Riesner is preparing for the annual pilgrimage that can bring an extra 50,000 people to town.
“There’s no question there’s more people,” he said.
That means guaranteed customers for businesses. Restaurants can see a 30-, even 40-percent increase compared to a normal week.
Hotels are up about 20 percent. Booking a room during Vikings training camp can be difficult even on weekdays.