In a move that surprised little, the Minnesota Vikings announced July 18 that they would be moving their training camp from Minnesota State University, Mankato to their newly-built facility in Eagan starting in 2018.
Since training camp first came to Mankato 52 years ago, the two-week-long festivities have proven to provide a significant boost in the city’s economy and tourism. According to Visit Mankato President Anna Thill, training camp brings in an upwards of $5 million for the city.
“It’s a very unique event for the community because of its international interest,” she said. “People have traveled from all around the world to be here. That puts a real life into the community.”
In her 10 years as president, Thill has seen fan attendance at training camp fluctuate. The peak years occurred when Dante Culpepper and Randy Moss were on the team where up to 80,000 people attended, she said. A 2010 study found that over 60,000 fans were attending training camp.
“Even though they’re leaving, there’s so much gratitude on behalf of the community for what the Vikings have done and the relationship that’s developed over the years,” she said.
Thill credits training camp for putting Mankato on the map. Local and national news stations providing media coverage of the city is something that MNSU Vice President of Finance and Administration said is hard to measure in terms of how training camp impacts the university.
“It’s hard to put a monetary value on the relationship we’ve had for 52 years,” he said.
The Vikings paying MNSU to use its facilities isn’t a big moneymaker for the University, Straka said. Many of the funds go into the upkeep of the facilities the team uses like Blakeslee Field and the Julia Sears Residence Community. Any leftover funds go into the university’s general fund account. Last year, the team paid $53,000 to use MNSU’s facilities and the university used $41,000 of that alone for facility upkeep.
“Something that puts it all into perspective is the Sesquicentennial we’re celebrating this year,” Straka said. “The Vikings have been here for a third of the life of the university. We have valued our relationship with the Vikings and wish them well as they enter a new phase of their organization.”
The Vikings’ connection to MNSU runs into its athletics. During their time here, the Vikings have used the same fields as the Maverick football team and donated practice jerseys to the team.
“The Vikings have been a tremendous resource and asset for our professional development as coaching staff members to learn from the highest level of coaching,” Mavericks Head Coach Todd Hoffner said.
According to Hoffner, the Vikings calling Mankato their training camp home has been a selling point in recruiting high school football players.
“It’s a little bit of a setback, but there’s some decisions we don’t have a say in,” he said. “You got to roll with the punches and we’ll do everything we can to sustain a strong and powerful football program.”
The Vikings’ last day of training camp is August 8. They will then drive down I-169 to head back to the Twin Cities for the last time.
“For as long as I can remember, August, the Minnesota Vikings and Mankato was a given,” Straka said. “It was so synonymous with the start of football season. It’s really going to be different down here.”