New day dawns for Vikings with training camp in Eagan

Published 8:02 am Monday, July 30, 2018

New season. New quarterback. New headquarters.

A sold-out crowd of 5,000 joined the Vikings in Eagan on a beautiful summer Saturday for the beginning of the 2018 season and a new era of training camp.

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For the first time in 52 years, the Vikings are starting their preseason training somewhere other than Mankato. This year, they’re at their new home at the site of the former headquarters of Northwest Airlines.

Players walked onto the natural grass practice fields for the first public sessions of the season. Rookies have been in camp since midweek.

For the 65,000 fans who made the annual trek to Mankato to get up close to their team, Saturday was the first chance to get a feel for the team’s new home as well as its new quarterback, Kirk Cousins.

The scene will be different. It’s a corporate headquarters now, not a college campus.

The team’s front office moved from Eden Prairie’s Winter Park, named for team founder Max Winter, to Eagan in late February. The new home is the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, named for the neighbor on the site that purchased the naming rights.

Players are on their own for housing now. They’re no longer wedged into college dorms, forced to bring their own air conditioners and bike to practice. Now they can remain in the comfort of their seasonal homes, sleep in their own beds and drive their own luxury vehicles to their reserved parking spaces.

For five decades, fans followed the team south to Minnesota State University in Mankato, where they found a relaxed vibe that could result in an impromptu streetside encounter with a player. By the team’s own admission, the operation will be tighter in Eagan.

Saturday’s forecast is about perfect, with temperatures bumping up against 80 degrees and some clouds to keep the sun out of the eyes.

Vikings fans always come into the season with hope, and that’s especially true this year with the arrival of Cousins and the lingering glow from that Stefon Diggs catch that seemed to signal something exciting.

The team’s first preseason game is Aug. 18 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the three-year-old U.S. Bank Stadium. The regular season begins Sept. 9 when the Vikings play host to the San Francisco 49ers.

By Rochelle Olson

Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.