EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Luther Hippe's "draft board" isn't as all-encompassing as the Vikings version overseen by General Manager Rick Spielman, but it does have decisions, variables and backup plans.
Hippe, the Vikings Director of Operations — Team Travel, is entering his 24th season with the club. He and staff members have spent the offseason building a list of options for hotels for this year's group of road games.
Rather than a whole wall inside of a long conference room at Winter Park that is used to stack prospects, Hippe's "draft board" is printable and able to be pinned on the corkboard above his desk.
Hippe said the Vikings evaluation includes availability of approximately 150 rooms, meeting spaces, food service, privacy, location and quality of the property, as well as reviews that the teams compile and share with each other.
The Vikings have known they'd have perennial road games with divisional foes Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay, and much less common destinations for Minnesota — Tennessee, Carolina, Philadelphia, Washington and Jacksonville — since January.
They didn't, however, know when the games would occur until Thursday when the NFL released the schedules for all 32 teams.
Once the schedule is known, the operations staff reaches out to hotels on the short list to find out if dates will work.
The Vikings will stay at the same hotels they did last season before sweeping the division in road games.
Playing the Bears on Monday Night Football on Halloween created a slight challenge for a hotel located near the Chicago Board of Trade that usually booms with business execs at the start of work weeks, but Hippe said the hotel was accommodating.
"The hotel in Chicago does a great job, Hippe said. "We were the first team to come in there, and now they've had about 20 teams in the past four years."
Hippe also complemented the hotels that the Vikings plan to use again for trips to Detroit (this year at Thanksgiving) and Green Bay (game will be Christmas Eve) for their past hospitality.
Most arrangements were proceeding nicely by Friday afternoon, but two cities presented extra layers of challenges: Nashville and Philadelphia.
A couple of hotels in tourist-heavy "Music City" are scheduled for completion this fall but won't be ready before Minnesota's season-opener on Sept. 11.
Weddings had claimed several options — and a funeral director's convention claimed one more — in the "City of Brotherly Love."
There are less variables involved with air transportation, thanks to charter flights booked with Delta for the entire season.
The Vikings will travel an estimated 11,610 miles through the air this season, which is nearly 3,000 fewer than in 2015, which included non-division road games at San Francisco, Denver, Oakland, Atlanta and Arizona. This year, however, the only games the Vikings are scheduled to play west of the Mississippi River will be inside brand new U.S. Bank Stadium, except for a preseason contest at Seattle. The visit to the Seahawks will encompass about 2,780 miles roundtrip, more than 500 greater than all three divisional jaunts combined.
Minnesota's schedule rotation of AFC South and NFC East opponents this season, along with hosting Arizona and visiting Carolina, give the Vikings one of the lowest mileage totals the team could ever have.
The anticipated mileage is approximately one-third of what the Los Angeles Rams are expected to travel (more than 35,000 miles) this season on trips. The migration of the Rams to St. Louis shortened trips the team will make each year to divisional rivals Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona, but lengthened this season's rarer visits to Tampa Bay, Detroit, the New York Jets, New England and London, England to face the New York Giants, which checks in at approximately 10,900 miles roundtrip. The Rams also will have a longer trip to Minnesota this year for the final preseason game for both teams.
The longest flight the Vikings are scheduled to make during the regular season will be to Jacksonville (2,340 miles roundtrip). The shortest, obviously, is the small triangle from Minneapolis to Appleton (235 miles) with a return flight from Green Bay (251).
Note: Mileage used was totaled using WebFlyer.com's calculator of distances from airport to airport.