EAGAN, Minn. (WCCO) — Training camp for the Minnesota Vikings is still five weeks away, but there is a lot of prep work to be done.
That’s because this year they’re in a new facility in Eagan. They want to make the experience a fan-friendly one, with some help from the digital world.
For most of 52 years, the Vikings called Mankato home for training camp. It was in many respects a perfect marriage — close enough to the metro — yet the team felt secluded. Progress and money change things.
And with that, a new facility. The players and coaches have been here for months training. Part of what it offers the team, and by extension the fans, is complete control over a piece of property they own.
“Obviously we have the ability to open more practices than we have in the past because it’s our site. We have more space for fan activities,” Vikings Communications Director Jeff Anderson said.
So what do you need to know? Well for starters, leave time and just get here.
It’s a little like the State Fair: Once you’re inside, the rest is easy.
“Just be here, be on time, plan ahead. Once you get here, everything will be taken care of,” Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren said. “We’re going to have activities in between practices. We’ll have our Vikings museum that’s going to be open. We’ll have our new Vikings team store.”
Simply put, pay attention to their web site to tell you everything you need to know, from getting tickets in advance to changes in schedule.
“That critical point about reserving your tickets in advance. There is no access to camp without tickets,” Anderson said.
Unlike Mankato, fans will not be allowed to watch team practice inside. In other words, if it rains, you have to go online and get a rain check.
Then there are the unknowns, like how an already prone to traffic jammed 494 can facilitate camp. That’s part of year one.
“Year 1 is a learning year for us, and we’re really looking forward to being able to step back after year one and say ‘This went really well’ and this is what we’d like to do different for next year to make it even better,” Vikings Chief of Staff Advisor Tina Holmes said.
So they are trying to prepare for everything to make this a destination, and to make it relatively easy.
“This is new and so this will be a work in progress. I’m sure it will go incredibly well,” Warren said.
The Vikings are capping crowds at 5,000 a day, and have 2,200 parking spaces. All training camp practices will be open to the public, but will require fans to reserve tickets in advance on the Vikings’ web site.
The rookies have to report to training camp on Tuesday, July 24. Their first practice is the next day, with a walkthrough from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and practice in helmets and shorts from 2:45 to 4:30 p.m.
Veterans report on Friday, July 27, and their first practice is Saturday, July 28.
The Vikings will host a night practice on Saturday, Aug. 4, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in full pads.