Editorial: Vikings/Mankato will always have the 52-year run

Published 9:46 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The inevitable decision by the Minnesota Vikings to move training camp out of Mankato and to the Twin Cities will be met with mixed emotions at best and some consolation that 52 years is a pretty good run.

From Fran Tarkenton to Daunte Culpepper, from Carl Eller to John Randle and from Bill Brown to Adrian Peterson, Mankatoans have had a front row seat to the reign of purple for half a century.

The Vikings players over the years got to know Mankato and with few exceptions, embraced the city and its people. Coaches were often gracious with their time at community events, talking about the team and its prospects. Players signed autographs and took selfies with fans at local watering holes. People in Mankato felt fortunate to have that window on the world of the NFL.

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Changes in team ownership sometimes brought ideas about changing the location of training camp, but in the end, the Vikings remained loyal to Mankato and Mankato remained loyal to the Vikings.

The city and Minnesota State University’s relationship with the Vikings is one of the longest in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a similarly long relationship with St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. And while the Green Bay Packers have been holding training camp workouts at Lambeau, they still use the dorms at St. Norbert’s College just down the road in De Pere.

But the separate training camp arrangements are dwindling in the NFL. The Vikings are just one of 12 teams still holding camp or parts thereof at facilities offsite from their headquarters.

Of course, much has changed about the NFL in 50 years. It’s now much more about money, team branding and sports related developments that include office buildings, apartments and retail stores. Players, too, don’t need five weeks at an offsite training camp to get ready for the season. They work out year round and go to mini-camps in the spring.

Vikings training camp also brought urban and rural Minnesotans together. We suspect harried Twin Cities commuters enjoyed the hour and a half drive out into God’s Country. Vikings camp was a place people from Bloomington could meet their Minnesota neighbors from Blooming Prairie. And there were no traffic jams at the Mankato exit on Highway 169.

Much of Vikings history started or was made in Mankato. It was Minnesota’s first look at the prospects, hopes and dreams for the coming years. Longtime players have many memories of a Mankato training camp, much like graduates would fondly recall their alma mater. You can take the Vikings out of Mankato, but you can’t take Mankato out of the Vikings.

— Mankato Free Press, July 18

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