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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

 

The Vikings have been holding training camp in Mankato since 1965, and are under contract with MSU Mankato to continue doing so until 2018. But after unveiling their new Twin Cities Orthopedic Center and "Viking Lakes" complex Wednesday, it's clear the team has the space and facilities to host future training camps in Eagan.

"No final decisions have been made on training camp but once those decisions have been made and finalized we'll let you know, of course," team owner Mark Wilf said at a news conference. "But we've had a great relationship with Mankato for 50-plus years, and we respect them a great deal."

Wilf and the Vikings staff have been touting the impressive nature of their new practice facility and team headquarters, and it's easy to see why. They will have four outdoor practice fields, a 6,000-seat stadium that can expand to 10,000 seats and new administrative offices.

The total project - which will feature retail shops and other ventures - figures to be about 200 acres when completed.

By comparison, the Dallas Cowboys recently opened their state-of-the-art practice complex in Frisco, Texas, and it was heralded as the best facility in the NFL. It cost them $1.5 billion to build and featured a 12,000-seat indoor stadium on only 91 acres.

The Vikings won't say how much their new property will cost, but if the Dallas site is any comparison, it's obvious the Wilf family has made a major investment. But with Forbes magazine's estimate of the value of the franchise in September of 2016 at $2.2 billion - up $600 million (or 38 percent) from the year before - it's clear they can afford it.

"We do have a lot of confidence in our organization and our executive team in executing a vision of what is really making the Minnesota Vikings into a first-class, world-class organization," Wilf said. "We started last year with the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium and now with this Twin Cities Orthopedic Performance Center, it's going to be state of the art as well. We're very excited."

Wilf was asked if the team used any other facilities as a model in the design phase of the project.

"We visited all types of facilities - internationally, college, professional, all different aspects - and we've tried to incorporate the best of all the different places we've visited," he said. "And we have great firms that are helping us build this and create a vision."

More competitive?

Does the new practice facility give the Vikings a better chance to build a winning franchise?

"We hope so," Wilf said. "We're going to give our players the best possible environment to succeed and there's going to be a lot of modernization and upgrades to the space. It's going to be critical. It's a very competitive environment in the NFL, and ultimately our goal is to win championships, so hopefully this will get us there."

So does he think they are building the best practice facility in the NFL?

"We do think so," he said. "We can't wait to be here in March and open it up for our players and for our fans to be able to experience the great Vikings tradition and hopefully build greatness and win championships."

Super Bowl planning

As the Vikings unveiled their new practice facility, they were also deep in their planning to host Super Bowl LII next Feb. 4 - right around the time their new facility is opened.

Wilf said that everything around the Super Bowl preparation is going well, but is also very involved.

"It's a lot of work to host, but Maureen [Bausch, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee's chief executive officer] and the host committee are doing an outstanding job," Wilf said. "We have great corporate support and we know Minnesotans have embraced it. We had 10,000-plus volunteers sign up within the first few days of announcing it. It's going to be a fantastic week to 10 days and a lot of great legacy programs for the community, a lot of great events, and hopefully be a great game. And even better, hopefully, the Minnesota Vikings will be in the game and winning it."

Warren talks costs

Kevin Warren, the Vikings' chief operating officer, said while the team remains uncertain of the total cost of the practice facility, ownership was mostly focused on putting together something positive for the Twin Cities.

"As far as the overall development, it will be a major investment ... the Wilfs have decided to do to put their own personal money in to make sure they bring an iconic venue to Eagan and the Twin Cities," Warren said.

He was asked about the overall goal of the project.

"One thing we're trying to do here is to create a development, as the Wilfs said from the day that they bought the team, to be able to pull in the community ... to host major events," Warren said. "But bigger than that, to bring all of our employees - we're in five different offices now - under one roof. The most important thing is to develop an iconic practice facility to create the best environment for our players, coaches and staff to work together.

"Right now we're in five different locations, and so it has become increasingly more difficult to kind of work together to get synergies. But with this building, everybody will be here and we'll have a Vikings campus."

Sid Hartman can be heard Monday and Friday on 830-AM at 8:40 a.m., Friday at 2 p.m. with Chad Hartman and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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May 18, 2017
 
 
 

 

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