The Vikings will be descending on Mankato next week for the start of training camp – the 48th straight year that they have conducted camp at the University of Minnesota-Mankato. Only the Packers have trained at a college campus longer – spending the last 56 years at Saint Norbert College in DePere, Wis.
But, as the NFL continues to grow as the economic juggernaut of sports, teams continue to find ways to capture revenue streams. One trend among those is to conduct training camp at team facilities and collect the revenue that follows. As things currently stand, the Vikings make money in their Vikings Village site at training camp and have limited revenue streams, but other teams are increasingly conducting training camps at their own facilities and controlling all of the revenue that visiting fans generate.
Getting away from their home base has long been a tradition with training camps. Teams routinely would conduct camps at colleges that were largely empty – getting players away from the distractions of the outside world and get their focus on football as much as possible. The conventional wisdom was the best way to do that was to get the players into a remote location away from the hustle and bustle of the cities in which they play. In the modern era of revenue creation, that has changed markedly.
As recently as 2001, only five teams held their training camps at team-owned facilities. A little more than a decade later, that number has jumped to 19 and is continuing to grow.
While the Vikings have announced no intention of moving out of Mankato, when the plans were drawn up for the ill-fated Ramsey County stadium project, part of that plan was have practice fields that likely would have included training camp facilities.
Whether the day of the college-based training camp is going away completely or not is unclear, but one thing that does appear certain is that more and teams are finding ways to control their own training camp program and, with it, collecting the revenue that used to go to the college towns in which they trained. The Vikings may end up being a dying breed that continues to hold their training camp away from their home base. At a time where economics has become a part of nearly every facet of the game, more teams are finding that, when it comes to training camp, there's no place like home.
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.
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