Three Towns Conditioning for Training Camp?

Three mid-sized cities in and around Minnesota appear to be gearing up to make a run at hosting Vikings training camp in 2007.

Three mid-sized communities in and around Minnesota are preparing for proposals to host the Minnesota Vikings' 2007 training camp and beyond.

Groups from Duluth, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo, N.D. are all discussing ways to attract the Vikings to their communities for 18 to 20 days of training camp each of the next few summers. The Vikings still plan to hold camp in Mankato, their training camp home for the last 40 years, in 2006, but since the group that ran camp the few years dissolved because of financial reasons, the Vikings have been forced to run camp themselves this summer and consider new facilities in the future.

Steve LaCroix, the Vikings vice president of sales and marketing, said the team would start looking at proposals sometimes this summer.

Sioux Falls, Duluth and Fargo were all interested in hosting the camp three years, but for political and demographic reasons the Vikings chose Mankato.

The school board in Sioux Falls approved a plan to have members of the business community look into a $4.7 million renovation plan of Howard Wood Field, a plan they hope will not include tax dollars if the Vikings were to be wooed to the South Dakota-Minnesota border town in 2007, according to the Argus Leader. The plan would include upgrades to the locker rooms with a fieldhouse and improve the track and grandstand. The facility already has new turf, restrooms and concessions.

Sioux Falls officials are hoping to meet with the Vikings in late March or early April, but they claim they will not get into a bidding war with other communities, as they did three years ago.

Duluth is interested in joining the bidding process, mayor Herb Bergson told the Duluth News-Tribune. However, the community is expected to need until this summer to form a committee and a proposal, which might include removing two softball fields at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in order to plant a natural grass football field. That was part of the communities plan last time they submitted a bid.

Fargo's interest might be the least impassioned of the three suitors at this juncture. The head of their Visitor's and Convention Bureau, Cole Carley, told the Fargo Forum that it was "on the farther end of the probability scale" that the Fargo-Moorhead area would win a bid if they elected to submit one.

Distance is a factor, as is the political damage it might do if a "Minnesota" team looking for public assistance in building a stadium complex would move its training camp out of state. However, without NFL teams in Iowa, North and South Dakota, the Vikings are considered a regional team, but the franchise is only seeking stadium support from Minnesota, making the move of training camp out of state a dicey political move at best, even though the state hasn't appeared to seriously consider stadium financing for the team to this point.

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.


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