As Vikings officials toured NFL stadiums a few years back to gather ideas for their new palace, they made a point to also visit some of the top team facilities, knowing they would soon be building one of those, too.
Their new team facility in Eagan is on schedule to open next March. Today, they invited out local media to take a peek at the progress and all of that erected steel is starting to resemble the framework of what we have seen for months in the renderings released by the organization.
Vikings officials, which included owner Mark Wilf and COO Kevin Warren, also touted the advantages of the new facility from a football standpoint and talked a little bit about other team facilities that inspired them.
They came away particularly impressed from what they saw in Seattle, which also worked with Crawford Architects to build its team facility, and at the University of Oregon. None of the Vikings’ top decision-makers visited Dallas’ facility, but they took note of what the Cowboys do in terms of community outreach, hosting high school games at “The Star.”
They also got ideas from the English Premier League team headquarters.
“This is really an amalgamation of the Wilfs’ vision of what we thought it should be like,” Warren said. “And then you put all those different aspects whether they were pro or international or college [facilities] all together and I think that’s why we have something that is very special.”
Having visited a handful of NFL facilities in my time covering the Vikings and previously the Ravens, I feel comfortable saying that when the TCO Performance Center opens next year, it will be one of the top facilities in the NFL. It will be modern and beautiful and will perhaps inspire awe.
And, needless to say, it is going to be a lot more useful than Winter Park.
Their current headquarters in Eden Prairie opened 36 years ago this week. It was considered top-notch at the time, but the Vikings outgrew it.
Take for example their typical practice in the indoor field there.
Which coach Mike Zimmer arrived in 2014, he asked for a team meeting room where the entire team and coaching staff could all be seated. With no other space left in the building, the meeting room was squeezed into the corner of one of the end zones on that indoor field. Not ideal.
That indoor field is also under a roof that is about 75 feet high. That may sound like more than enough, but their punters can’t truly practice there because they too often bang balls off the rafters and kickoffs are no picnic either. So the specialists practice once a week at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The roof over the indoor field at TCOPC will be 100 feet high and both end zones and the full 100-yard field will be available for Zimmer to use.
The new place will have four outdoor fields, one of which is heated.
That total does not include the field in the TCOPC outdoor stadium that will have a capacity of 6,501 spectators. The Vikings plan to use that to hold Friday night high school games, youth camps and eventually their training camp (though they made no announcements about that today other than acknowledging this could be their last summer in Mankato).
Other perks for the football staff include a permanent draft room for GM Rick Spielman and his scouting staff, which every offseason has had to create a makeshift “war room” in an undersized conference room the coaches typically use, and a massive, tech-savvy team meeting room.
The players will enjoy a more spacious locker room (with fireplaces!), a large cafeteria overlooking one of the lakes on the 40-acre Vikings campus and major upgrades to their weight room, training room and more.
Free agents typically prioritize money, on-field roles and winning when looking for their new team. The facility where they spend most of their time during the week can be a tiebreaker, though, and is usually more important to players than a stadium they only play in 10-12 times a year.
“First and foremost, we’re going to give our players the best possible environment to succeed,” Mark Wilf said of TCOPC. “And that’s still our ultimate goal, to win Lombardi Trophies. … The facility is going to provide much needed modernization and upgrades that set the pace within the NFL and are critical in recruiting and retaining future players.”