The Vikings' 45-year-old streak of holding training camp in Mankato could be coming to an end, but the team isn't giving up hope just yet.
While the NFL lockout of players remains in place and the Vikings announced a July 18 date to make a decision on whether camp will continue its Mankato tradition, the team is still hoping it will all come together in the next five days.
"The Vikings have a strong tradition of holding training camp in Mankato, and certainly we want to be there again this summer," said Jeff Anderson, the team's assistant director of public affairs. "We appreciate our relationships with Minnesota State University and the community, and we're hopeful we will be practicing in front of thousands of Vikings fans in Mankato this August."
The decision is hung up while waiting to see if representatives for the NFL owners and players can come to a collective bargaining agreement that hasn't happened since the lockout began in early March. Throughout the process, court decisions have been rendered and appealed, but besides a one-day, court-ordered reprieve on the lockout during the NFL draft in April, coaches haven't been allowed to have contact with players. Free agency has been put on hold. Minicamps have been cancelled. And three teams that normally hold training camp away from their team facilities have already cancelled those plans. The Vikings don't want to be the next in line next week.
Last year, 60,000 fans rolled through the training camp gates at Minnesota State University-Mankato, and city officials estimate Vikings training camp has a $5 million economic impact on the Southern Minnesota community. Local businesses like the AmericInn Hotel and Conference Center and the Boomtown bar estimate that 7 percent of their annual sales take place during the two weeks of training camp.
There is some reason for hope. Reports indicate that a collectively bargained agreement is near, maybe as soon as early next week, but even if an agreement is reached by the team's July 18 deadline, it's uncertain if the NFL calendar will still allow for the Vikings to go forward with their scheduled first training camp practice on Aug. 1. Any delay in that schedule would preclude the Vikings from completing a full training camp in Mankato because students move into the dorms the Vikings use shortly after their scheduled two-week camp would conclude.
For that reason, the Vikings have a contingency plan to hold training camp at Winter Park that would include more limited access for fans. But for the next five days, they are hoping to avoid implementing the contingency plan and going forward with Plan A and continuing the Mankato tradition.
"As we would for any major event, we have a backup plan for holding camp at Winter Park," Anderson said. "Right now we are focusing our efforts on Mankato and holding on to hope that we'll be there this year."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Vikings holding out hope for Mankato camp
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