Vikings Focus on Operating Training Camp

The disbandment of a corporation formed to operate training camp in Mankato has the Vikings preparing to run the camp themselves, just like they did in 2003 and prior, and preparing to accept bids from other cities sometime this summer for their 2007 training camp.

For 2006, the Vikings will operate their own training camp in Mankato, but they also will be exploring options for future training camps again sometime this summer.

The team went through the process last in 2003, when they opened up bids to cities in Minnesota and neighboring states, but ultimately the team decided to stick with its Mankato site like it had for the last four decades.

Now that the Greater Mankato Training Camp LLC has disbanded after two years and handed back the reigns to operating the camp, the Vikings will be back looking for bids for 2007 and beyond. The LLC ceased operation because they were losing money—last year new Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had to pick up the difference so that the Greater Mankato Training Camp wouldn't charge fans to attend.

"They had two years left on their contract and we certainly didn't think we'd be back in the training camp mode on a daily basis for another couple of years," said Steve LaCroix, Vikings vice president of sales and marketing. "It certainly puts more responsibility on our shoulders. It's something that we've done before, but we're going to use the template that was created by the LLC and really try to take it to the next level for fan involvement and the fan amenities standpoint."

LaCroix said the Vikings will be in Mankato again for at least this summer, and they are working with the Minnesota State, Mankato to arrange what facilities are needed.

"That's where we're focused at this point—this summer—then once we get beyond that we'll analyze 2007. We're not at the point where we're looking at that yet," he said.

Back in 2003, Duluth, Mankato and Sioux Falls, S.D., were the most serious bidders, but Sioux Falls eventually lost out to Mankato, largely because Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said it would be difficult for the state to consider funds for a new Vikings stadium if training camp were held out of the state. In reality, funds for that new stadium still haven't been seriously considered at the state level anyway.

Now officials in Sioux Falls are back at the drawing board, maybe feeling a bit used from the last time around, but still considering putting together another proposal for 2006. According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, improvements to Howard Wood Field and a new $13.4 million athletic complex are already scheduled.

"They had a great proposal as far as wanting the Vikings to come to Sioux Falls for training camp. It was a very impressive proposal they put forth," LaCroix said.

Any new training camp deal would presumably come with the caveat that it is a short-term fix for the Vikings, who likely would hold training camp at their new stadium complex, if and when that is built. The franchise continues to work with officials in Anoka County and Blaine in partnering with the state to build a $675 million stadium. The Vikings likely would then move their company facilities to the new site as well.

Sioux Falls officials are aware that any bid they submit probably would be for a short-term deal.

LaCroix said he doesn't anticipate a lot of changes for this year's camp in Mankato, but he thought there could be some modifications to the Viking Village, an interactive fan portion of camp, trying to get it more cost-efficient and including more activities for fans on a daily basis. The main components of camp will continue as usual, he said.

The dates are also expected to remain relatively close to the past time frame, but the Vikings don't know yet if they will be one of the four teams in the league who are given a fifth preseason game, either in the American Bowl or Hall of Fame game, which would move up the dates of camp. The NFL schedule should be released in about two months.

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