Vikings returning to Mankato 3 more years

The Minnesota Vikings will continue to travel to Mankato for training camp for at least three more years.

The Vikings celebrated their 50th anniversary of conducting training camp in Mankato. On Wednesday, the team, the City of Mankato and Minnesota State University announced that the Vikings will continue to have camp in the city through at least 2018.

In a joint statement released Wednesday, the Vikings and Minnesota State announced a three-year extension to their current agreement for the city and the university to host training camp.

“Announcing this extension with Minnesota State University, Mankato is a perfect way to celebrate our 50 years together,” Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said. “Vikings training camp is a great tradition for the team and our fans and we look forward to this continued partnership with both the university and the City of Mankato.”

MSU President Dr. Richard Davenport said the city and the university have enjoyed their training camp partnership with the Vikings.

“We very happy to announce a three-year extension to host the Minnesota Vikings training camp,” Davenport said. “It’s been wonderful to celebrate 50 years of Vikings training camp on our campus this summer and we look forward to the Vikings being here during the university’s 150th year anniversary celebration.

Minnesota State University began as Mankato Normal School in 1868 and will celebrate its 150th year of operation in 2017.

At a time when many teams are utilizing the ability to conduct training camp at their team facilities, the Vikings are something of a dying breed when it comes to traveling away from their headquarters to a college campus to conduct their annual training camp.

For Minnesotans, there is something of a familial aspect to training camp, a rite of passage for fans to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. In a sport that has as much one-on-one disconnect with its fans, training camp in Mankato is a chance for fans to get as up close and personal as they will more than any point during the season and the players enjoy the experience as much as the fans.

“This is a great atmosphere down here,” tight end Chase Ford said. “I’m from Texas and the passion and the enthusiasm here is about as close as you get to what you get on Friday nights in Texas. They show you how much the Vikings mean to them and they pack the stands for every practice. It’s great to see that kind of enthusiasm from the fans who come to watch us at camp. It means a lot to us to see how much passion our fans have. It’s like being back home for me.”

The nostalgia factor that associates Vikings training camp has given Mankato an identity. Longtime residents remember all the greats – from Bud Grant to Fran Tarkenton to Carl Eller to Jim Marshall to Alan Page (when he wasn’t skipping camp to go to law school) to Joe Kapp to Ron Yary to Paul Krause to Chuck Foreman to Mick Tingelhoff to Gary Zimmerman to John Randle to Hershel Walker to Randall McDaniel to Cris Carter to Randy Moss to Daunte Culpepper to Matt Birk to Kevin Williams to Jared Allen to Adrian Peterson to Percy Harvin to Brett Favre (oh wait, he never showed). If you’re old enough, Mankato residents have seen them all.

At a time when it seems football is too focused on its future and makings its brand more valuable, there is something to be said about the nostalgia associated with a NFL team still conducting training camp on a small-town college campus surrounded by farms for miles in every direction. It’s not the image the NFL typically portrays, but for Vikings fans everywhere, for three weeks every July and August, it becomes their Field of Dreams.

For the next three years anyway, it isn’t going anywhere and fans will continue to be able to add new chapters to their ongoing love affair with the Vikings.

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