MINNEAPOLIS -- By the time the Minnesota Vikings return from their bye week next month, their home stadium should be a bit friendlier for nursing mothers.
The Vikings announced on Tuesday they'll be the first NFL team to install "lactation suites" in their home stadium, putting a pair of mobile pods in TCF Bank Stadium before their Oct. 18 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 4-by-8-foot pods include benches, an electrical outlet to plug in breast pumps and a locking door. The team partnered with Mamava, the Vermont-based company installing the pods, and the Vikings will also put two in their corporate offices in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
The team says it will install the pods in U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings' new home which is slated to open next season and host Super Bowl 52 in 2018. The Vikings are also exploring a nursing area in the new stadium where mothers can stay in touch with the game, similar to what the Seattle Seahawks installed at CenturyLink Field.
The Vikings' initiative comes as NFL teams face scrutiny from mothers looking for a private place to nurse during games. The Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds have introduced nursing areas in their ballparks, and the Boston Red Sox added the Mamava pods to Fenway Park, but few NFL facilities have similar amenities. Fans of the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers started separate online petitions for nursing areas at Gillette Stadium and Heinz Field, respectively, after a similar effort prompted the Nationals to install a nursing room at Nationals Park.
"Creating a family-friendly environment and a positive experience for all fans at our football games is paramount to the Minnesota Vikings," team chief operating officer Kevin Warren said in a statement. "While we certainly encourage breastfeeding mothers to nurse where they feel comfortable, we have become increasingly aware of the need many moms have for the privacy and comfort that these Mamava lactation suites provide. In addition, we are always striving to create the most positive workplace environment within our organizations and the pods at our two headquarters will benefit many of our female employees."