Vikings training camp has something for all

Published 8:55 am Monday, August 2, 2010

Ryan Longwell takes kicks. -- Linda Holst/for the Albert Lea

By Linda Holst, for the Tribune

MANKATO — The Vikings Training Camp in Mankato has something for persons of all ages.

Moreover, the day’s outing can cost you nothing — unless you get thirsty (or hungry) or want to purchase Viking merchandise. No food or beverage is allowed into the training camp area.

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Stadheim Road is the easiest route to get you to training camp.

There is a large Minnesota State University parking lot, but it will cost you $7. Across the street from the parking lot is a strip mall, where your parking is free.

Plan to arrive one hour before practice begins. The gate into the Vikings welcome tent opens 30 minutes before practice. You will not be sorry you stood in line.

As you proceed into the welcome tent, pass up the Viking merchandise and get to your viewing area. The apparel and other souvenirs are available for purchase long after practice is over.

Tribune Children have a great time in the Viking Village playing the various games that test their kicking, throwing and running skills. -- Linda Holst/for the Albert Lea

This year is the Vikings’ 50th year as a franchise, so take some time to view the five decades of memories on display (helmets, footballs and jerseys of players). By the way, the welcome tent is the only place you will find any air conditioning.

Select your viewing area based on whether you want to take photos. There are two large bleachers that give you a view of all three practice fields. However, if you want to get pictures, standing against the fence in front of the bleachers is your best choice for the best shot.

Once you find your spot, do not leave. You will find another fan in your spot the minute you leave. Training camp brings thousands of people each day.

If the location to watch practice does not matter to you, walk down Stadheim Road to Myers Field House. You will have a closer look at the players as they head to the football field.

Practice time is usually two hours. There are three football fields the players use. You will get a chance to see all the players because they rotate fields. The scrimmage of the day is held in the field closest to the bleachers.

Autographs are important to many of fans (bring your football). Each practice day has an autograph session with a certain group of players (special teams, wide receivers, running backs).

A line begins forming about 45 minutes before the end of practice. The downside to the autograph session is, it lasts only 20 minutes. If you wait to the end of practice to get in line, you will most likely not get an autograph.

The Viking Village has many games for children, which are all free but have long lines.

Put on your purple Vikings jersey and make your way to Mankato. Training camp runs through Aug. 12.

Visiting the Vikings training camp is a great way to see the players at no cost. Be sure to bring sunscreen and your fan enthusiasm.