A year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Vikings to close training camp to fans, the team will welcome them back this summer with a slate that features four "premium practices," including a scrimmage at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Vikings will hold 14 open practices during their 2021 training camp in Eagan, beginning with their first full-team practice on July 28. The team's annual night practice at TCO Stadium comes on July 31, when the Vikings are still in their ramp-up period before their first padded practice. They will scrimmage at U.S. Bank Stadium in front of fans for the first time at noon on Aug. 7.
Vikings chief operating officer Andrew Miller said the team came up with the idea for the stadium scrimmage this spring as a way to welcome back fans who had been kept out last season because of the pandemic and to give the operations staff a dress rehearsal a week before the first preseason game.
"We want people to feel like they're coming back in for a game," Miller said. "We want it to be something where fans can come back in, feel like they're part of the team and they're back in the stadium watching a game. It's going to be a full padded practice. It's going to be fun to see how people like it."
For the first time, the Vikings will charge for tickets to four practices: the night practice, the stadium scrimmage and two joint practices with the Broncos on Aug. 11-12. Children under 36 inches will still be free, but the Vikings will charge $10 per adult and $5 per child under 17 for the night practice and the two days with the Broncos, the Vikings' opponent for their first preseason game. The team will admit up to 20,000 fans to the stadium scrimmage, where tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 17.
The Vikings had initially planned to charge fans for tickets to training camp practices in 2005 after the Wilfs bought the team, but scrapped the idea because of a strong reaction from fans and the fact opposing scouts could have purchased tickets for practices if they weren't free to attend. Since the Vikings moved to Eagan in 2018, they've charged for premium seats at training camp; this year, they'll offer up to 300 upscale tickets per day, with food and beverages included, for $50 apiece.
"We've had a longstanding tradition of having open practices in training camp with free tickets. We wanted to preserve that tradition this year," Miller said. "We also want to give our fans options. We've created some new all-inclusive packages, opportunities to see practice with a combination of preseason tickets, [Vikings] museum discounts. Really, it's about different experiences tailored to what our fans want. We tried to create a number of different options to try and do that."
As it did in 2018 and 2019, the team will have up to 4,000 free general admission tickets for 10 practices at its facility during training camp. Season ticket holders can reserve training camp tickets starting Tuesday, while the general public can reserve seats on June 24.
The Vikings will not require fans to wear masks or show proof of COVID-19 vaccination at training camp, though the team will encourage unvaccinated fans to wear masks and Miller said the Vikings are continuing to promote the vaccine. NFL protocols will prevent the Vikings from making players available for autographs, but Miller said the Vikings are working on different options, like autograph sessions with former players or chances for fans to catch signed football from current players.
Camp will be open from noon to 5:30 p.m. each day, with practices running from approximately 2:00 to 4:30.
"The moment when we open the gates to training camp, the moment when the Skol chants start on Sept. 26 before our home opener, it's going to be a very special moment for all of us," MIller said. "Knowing that people haven't been at a Vikings game in person at U.S. Bank Stadium since December of 2019, it's going to be almost two years [by the time] we have our home opener. I think we're all seeing it in our daily lives — reintroduction to things we love. Doing that with 67,000 of our closest Viking fan friends is going to be something that none of us will ever forget."
Here are the key dates to note for Vikings training camp:
July 28: First open practice
July 31: Night practice at TCO Stadium, 7 p.m. ($10 for adults, $5 for kids under 17)
Aug. 2: First padded practice
Aug. 7: U.S. Bank Stadium scrimmage, noon ($20 for adults, $10 for kids under 17)
Aug. 11-12: Joint practices with Broncos ($10 for adults, $5 for kids under 17)
Aug. 14: Preseason opener vs. Broncos, 3 p.m.