Vikings buy site for possible headquarters, training facility

Published 5:40 pm Saturday, August 22, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings, already bound for a glitzy new stadium, said Friday they could have another move in store — to the former headquarters of Northwest Airlines in Eagan.

The football team’s ownership announced the signing of a purchase agreement for a 185-acre property that could become its headquarters and training facility. The team did not disclose the price.

The Vikings main off-the-field presence for more than 30 years has been Winter Park in Eden Prairie. But chief operating officer Kevin Warren said the team has outgrown the venerable practice facility, known for its Viking ship outside.

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“The existing Winter Park training facility poses space and flexibility challenges for the Vikings as we continue to grow and evolve,” Warren said in a statement. “While we are evaluating a variety of options to accommodate the long-term needs of our football team and the organization at-large, this property is intriguing for several reasons.

“Not only does this location have tremendous space and flexibility for future growth, but it also offers proximity to both Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns, as well as the airport,” he said.

The Northwest Airlines land went on the market in 2009 for $24.5 million, after Delta Air Lines acquired Northwest and moved most of its headquarters operations to Atlanta. The complex has sat mostly vacant since then. A St. Louis Park-based developer, the Excelsior Group, purchased the land in June for $10.4 million.

Vikings vice president Bagley declined to say what the Vikings will pay for the property. Tom Tracy, a vice president with the Excelsior Group, also declined to say.

Most NFL teams conduct their training camps at their own facilities, while the Vikings send their players and coaches to Minnesota State University in Mankato. The team recently signed a three-year deal to remain in Mankato through 2018, but relocating to Eagan could open the door to other possibilities.

Winter Park opened 34 years ago when Bud Grant was the Vikings’ coach and Tommy Kramer was quarterback. Team management and media offices are currently scattered in three locations — Winter Park, leased space in a bank building across the street, and downtown Minneapolis.

A move from Eden Prairie to Eagan is not a done deal. The Vikings will have a due diligence period to give them time to evaluate the Eagan site before locking it in.

Of course, the Vikings higher-profile upcoming move will be to the $1 billion-plus stadium in downtown Minneapolis that’s due to open in 2016.