MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) – There’s going to be an invasion of purple in Mankato on Thursday as Minnesota Vikings players and team officials report to training camp.
All players are required to report to Minnesota State University-Mankato on Thursday by 4 p.m., and camp will officially begin with practices Friday morning and afternoon. Players and members of the organization will spend Thursday moving into their dorms, setting up offices and preparing for the NFL season ahead.
This year’s training camp will last three weeks, a week longer than last year’s after the lockout delayed the start of the NFL season.
The only hitch in the season so far: Matt Kalil, the Vikings’ first-round draft choice, has not yet signed a rookie contract and cannot practice with the team until he does.
Vikings training camp is also a significant boost to the economy, according to Ann Thill of the Greater Mankato Growth Council.
She said visitors not only contribute millions of dollars over the three-week period, they also discover the town’s many’s attractions, including canoeing and rafting.
“In Blue Earth County, which is the county Mankato is in, we have more river shore than any other county in the state of Minnesota. So we have five different rivers that people can get exposed to either by raft or canoe. It takes you back in time, because you will see parts of the state that have not been touched for hundreds of years,” Thill said.
Naturally, hotel, motel and restaurants generate the lion share of the estimated $5 million spent by out of town fans over the course of the three-week training camp, however Thill says it also helps visitors with the city’s many parks, which boast petting zoos and breathtaking river views. Even the downtown area beckons the weary traveler.
“One of our newest features is the City Art Walk. We have about 30 or more beautiful sculptures over a four to five block area right in the city center. We invite you to take in these wonderful sculptures,” Thill said.
Thill admits when all is said and done, Mankato owes a lot to the men and women behind the purple.
“This is an opportunity to get up and close to a national football team, and nobody is going to be able to get as close as they do during our camp. It also gives our young people inspiration about where to go to college, and MSU has brought in a lot of people due to the Vikings training camp,” Thill said.