EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Legends who helped build the franchise and the men and women who built the team's new headquarters recently visited Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center for an open house.
The day featured self-guided tours and on-field activities.
Legends and their family members were invited to walk through the sparkling new facility, checking out the weight room, locker room and Indoor Practice Facility before gathering in The Huddle (cafeteria) for a meal featuring pizza and pasta.
Jeff Siemon and his wife, Dawn, enjoyed dining with Wes and Linda Hamilton.
"It's always a delight to see former players that I played with and see the new ones, too," Siemon said. "There's a stark difference between the facilities here and the ones we didn't have. This is quite a setting."
Siemon (1972-82), Hamilton (1976-84) and contemporaries began with the Vikings before the team celebrated the opening of Winter Park as its first permanent practice facility in 1981.
"It was nice, but I was sorry it didn't happen earlier," Siemon explained. "It's all we knew. We didn't really know anything else. We lived with it and succeeded in spite of it. I don't know that players necessarily have to be in a situation like this. It's nice for the players, but surely isn't a requirement. We played well with very Spartan conditions."
Carl Lee (1983-93), who joined the Vikings in the second season of the Metrodome and the team's third at Winter Park, said it's amazing to see how far facilities have come.
"I was just happy to be playing in the Dome," Lee said. "[TCO Performance Center] looks like a college campus that is focused on football only, and they're building everything around it.
"The weight room, the locker room, I almost feel like I'd be scared to be sweaty in the locker room, like I'm dirtying it up," Lee said. "It's phenomenal, and I really don't know how you couldn't classify this as the top-notch practice facility, and then you put it with the stadium, you have to put it as one of the top organizations in the league."
Lee enjoyed reconnecting with Rufus Bess (1982-87) and his wife, Tina, for lots of good-natured kidding, the kind that stems from true friendship.
Vikings Executive Director of Social Impact Brett Taber said it was great to welcome Vikings Legends to a place they can consider their new home.
"The Legends are the fabric of this team," Taber said. "It's so important that we share [TCO Performance Center] with the men that built the foundation of this team that brought us to this point. To have more than 200 friends and family of these former players in this facility is something truly special, to celebrate them, to honor them, and to show them that they're still a very important part of the Vikings family."
In addition, the Vikings welcomed family members of construction workers and vendors to the see the finished product that they helped complete.
Kraus Anderson Vice President-Director of Operations Craig Francois enjoyed reflecting on the finished product and the fact that Kraus Anderson was involved with the construction of Winter Park. Francois stood on the turf of the Indoor Practice Facility that features a high enough clearance to allow the Vikings to punt.
"It's great to have a top-of-the-line facility," Francois said.
Randy Strong, who has worked nearby at KONE Elevators & Escalators for 10 years, said it was nice to help a construction project in the neighborhood.
"Visually, the finished project is really spectacular," Strong said. "It's very welcoming."