The Minnesota Vikings have not determined what will happen with their 15-acre Winter Park facility after they move out next spring.
“We have to sit down and sort out all that we want to do,” said Kevin Warren, vice president of operations for the Vikings.
His comments came during a luncheon and tour for members of the Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce on the Friday before the Fourth of July weekend. Most of the players are gone this time of year before reporting to training camp in Mankato on July 23 and 26. Some still come to the facility to exercise and practice on their own.
This is the final year the Vikings will be at Winter Park, but the team’s practice site and headquarters will get one last moment in the bright NFL spotlight because Minneapolis is hosting Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.
Though Winter Park was established in 1981, the indoor field at Winter Park was built as a place for the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills to practice in the days leading up to Super Bowl XXVI in 1992.
He said the Super Bowl will not only bring attention to the new US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis but also the entire Twin Cities, including Eden Prairie and Winter Park. Of course, the Vikings hope to have home-field advantage.
“There has never been an NFL team to play in a Super Bowl in its own state,” Warren said. “We are hoping to get our team there and to win it.”
Next spring, after the big game, the Vikings plan to move into a new 40-acre corporate campus and practice facility in Eagan — visible from Interstate 494, just like Winter Park. Called the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, it will offer 277,000 square feet for the Vikings’ needs — twice the square footage of Winter Park. And it features a 6,500-seat practice stadium that can service other events, along with 160 acres nearby for mix-use development, Warren said.
The 190 Vikings employees presently are working at five locations, he noted.
“It will be a special day to have everyone under one roof,” he said.
The organization has come a long way at Winter Park. He said they had 90 to 92 employees when the Wilf brothers purchased the team in May 2005. At the time, the facility needed upgrades and even had no air conditioning. Shower heads have been raised 6 inches to accommodate bigger, taller players.
Though the site is 15 acres, only 12 are usable, and the team desires more space for offices, weight rooms, locker rooms, media rooms and playing fields. It had been looking for locations in the southwest suburbs, such as Eden Prairie and Chanhassen, when the Eagan site opened up. The land was the former headquarters for Northwest Airlines and became available after the airline merged with Delta Air Lines, which has its headquarters in Atlanta.
Winter Park was named for Max Winter, who was instrumental to Minnesota landing an NFL franchise in 1960 and was team president from 1965 to 1987. Warren said the team will find a new way to honor Winter.
He said the Vikings, an Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce member itself, wanted to thank the Eden Prairie community for being gracious hosts.
Warren said he has been coming to work at Winter Park since his son was 5. His son is now 18.
“This building is all we know. This building is home,” he said.