MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' 2017 training camp will be their 52nd at Minnesota State University. It will also be their last.
The Vikings announced Tuesday that they'll move training camp in 2018 to their new team headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota. The TCO Performance Center, which is scheduled to open next spring, will include a 6,500-seat stadium that can be used for training camp practices.
"[There's] excitement that we have in the organization for the future, but this is also a tough day," Vikings executive VP of public affairs Lester Bagley said. "It's an exciting day, and it's great to acknowledge our relationship and our history with [Minnesota State], but it's also an opportunity for us to celebrate."
Only 11 NFL teams, including the Vikings, will leave home for training camp this season; the Indianapolis Colts will hold training camp at their practice facility for the first time this season, and the New Orleans Saints returned to their practice facility this year after spending the last three years in West Virginia.
When the Vikings announced plans for their new practice facility, it seemed likely they would eventually move training camp on-site for the first time in their history. The current facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has no space to accommodate fans for practices, and though the Vikings have spoken warmly of their accommodations at Minnesota State, it stood to reason they would eventually join the growing number of teams that keep training camp at home.
The Vikings have held training camp in Mankato, Minnesota, since 1966, which ties the Pittsburgh Steelers' stay at St. Vincent College for the second-longest by any team in the NFL. Only the Green Bay Packers, who have housed players for camp at St. Norbert College since 1958, have been in one place longer -- though the Packers actually hold training camp practices at their facility across the street from Lambeau Field.
Bagley said the Vikings looked at the possibility of keeping a portion of training camp in Mankato, but ultimately decided it was more prudent to house everything in one place. He said the team will target a three-week window of open practices during training camp in Eagan, though the schedule will ultimately be set by general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer.
Approximately 64,000 fans attended open practices in Mankato last year, Bagley said, and the Vikings have typically seen attendance figures north of 60,000 during training camp there. He expects attendance to increase in Eagan, due to the size of the stadium and its proximity to Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Vikings signed a three-year extension with Minnesota State in 2015, but the deal contained a clause that allowed either the team or the university to re-evaluate things in December 2017. Bagley said the Vikings will hold a series of commemorative events during their final camp in Mankato, and the team will endow an annual scholarship at Minnesota State.
In addition to the stadium, the Vikings' new facility will include five practice fields -- four outdoor and one indoor. If inclement weather strikes when the Vikings are practicing at Minnesota State, the team either has to wait out the storm or move practice to the infield of an indoor track, which often limits what it can accomplish that day.
Construction is ahead of schedule on the Vikings' new facility, chief operating officer Kevin Warren said, but it won't be completed in time for one of the two teams in Super Bowl LII to practice there. Bagley said the AFC team will practice at the Vikings' current facility in Eden Prairie and the NFC team will practice at the University of Minnesota before the Feb. 4 game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
If the Vikings win the NFC championship, however, they'll be able to use their own facility and the AFC team would practice at the university.