EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings players will dig deep here in practices and training sessions for years to come, but on Tuesday, shallow scoops from shovels in the hands of
The three players, along with Head Coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman, took advantage of the players’ first day off since reporting to training camp on July 28 to attend the ceremonial groundbreaking for the team’s future headquarters.
The men joined dignitaries, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vikings Owner/Vice Chairman Leonard Wilf, and Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire, to stand in front of part of a 40-acre site that will become four outdoor practice fields.
The shovels, including one delivered to Goodell by a parachute team, went down, and the dirt went flying as the noise of earth-moving machines in the distance continued re-sculpting a vast landscape that will become the Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) Performance Center.
“Today’s celebration represents a lot of hard work by the City of Eagan and our partners,” Wilf said. “It represents an agreement and significant commitment between the Minnesota Vikings and the City of Eagan.
“This land has tremendous potential,” Wilf added. “We are confident, working with Eagan and the people here today, that we will deliver an incredible facility.”
Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren announced the 20-year naming rights partnership for the development that will include a 6,000-seat outdoor stadium (TCO Stadium) that can be expanded to 10,000 seats. The naming rights deal is an expansion of an existing relationship between the Vikings and TCO, which announced plans for an 88,000 square foot facility that will be part of the overall build and make medical exams of players more convenient.
“One of the things we’ve always talked about at the Vikings is authenticity,” Warren said. “That’s why this is an authentic partner. The other great thing that a lot of people haven’t spoken about, it’s a Minnesota-based partner, so you think of all the people that will be put to work at TCO. It shows that Minnesota-based companies have qualitative individuals that can come to the table and work together.”
In addition to providing a fifth outdoor practice field, TCO Stadium will be able to host high school “Friday Night Lights” football games and other sports like soccer, rugby and lacrosse. It will be in contrast to many NFL headquarters that rarely if ever host public events.
High school players attending the ceremony were able to meet Bridgewater, Treadwell and Smith as part of the festivities.
Goodell thanked the Wilf family for its “leadership, commitment to the community, and commitment to putting together a first-class organization that is focused on doing the right things in the community and winning on the football field and being a great partner in the NFL.”
“This is the way a franchise should be put together, and they’ve done it in a great way,” Goodell said. “It doesn’t happen also without leadership in the community and partnership in the community, and we’ve seen that. I’ve seen it first-hand four years ago when U.S. Bank [Stadium legislation] came to fruition.”
The groundbreaking occurred less than two weeks after the grand opening of U.S. Bank Stadium, which is set to host its first Vikings game on Aug. 28 when the Chargers visit for a preseason contest. The Vikings will host the Packers on Sept. 18 in the first regular-season game.
“Following the recent opening of U.S. Bank Stadium, today’s groundbreaking marks another significant milestone in Minnesota Vikings history,” Mark Wilf said in a release. “Constructing this world-class facility and formalizing the partnership with TCO furthers our goals of building this football team for sustained success, developing long-term business relationships, and ensuring our organization remains a strong community partner.”
The 40-acre Vikings campus is the centerpiece of a 200-acre parcel of land that the Vikings purchased. The site is the old headquarters of Northwest Airlines and will be transformed into mixed-use area with residential, retail and restaurant spaces, as well as a conference center and hotels proposed in years to come.
Maguire said the Vikings are “becoming a landmark neighbor in our community.”
“Once the practice facility is built and you drive by it, without having seen a [welcome] sign that you’re right near Eagan, and that’s going to be throughout the region, so that’s where it starts,” Maguire said. “The second level is the kinds of users that are attracted to the development because the Vikings are here. People think it’s an exciting project and they’ll want to be close to the Vikings or partners with the Vikings.”
Zimmer has made some adjustments to Winter Park, which opened in 1981. The biggest change since his arrival was building a temporary team meeting room, but doing so involved blocking off a chunk of one end zone inside the Winter Park Fieldhouse. The new facility will have proper meeting space, as well as a 100-yard indoor field.
“We’re excited to make Eagan our home,” Zimmer said. “It’s going to be an outstanding facility. Our players are going to represent the community in the correct way. You’re going to be proud of them not only on the field but off the field.”
Spielman said it’s an exciting time for the Vikings, and the team wants to keep it that way through the benefit of the state-of-the art facility.
“Last week, we were very fortunate to be part of the U.S. Bank Stadium opening, but you have to understand that U.S. Bank Stadium is our stage,” Spielman said. “That’s our end result where our games are played. There’s a lot of time, energy and effort that go into the preparation of getting to that game day, and to be part of this today in Eagan, part of this groundbreaking for our new practice facility is an honor. This is going to be our home.”