MANKATO, Minn. -- Things feel different for Vikings fans on the day the players report for training camp. They look different too. The Vikings are in a new dorm. The signs, they're new too. Players could see billboards welcoming them to southern Minnesota on their way down to camp; some found personalized messages written to them on car windows at a roadside dealership.
"Looking forward to it. We have a lot to look forward to," Marc Weber, the manager of the City Grille in St. Peter said. Weber built a football field on the tavern's front yard facing Highway 169. "We get lots of fans all the way from North Dakota, a few from Canada stop by every year, and a lot of regular customers every year," he explained.
"It's awesome. About $5 million start circulating through the community just because of camp, which is great. So retail, shopping, hospitality; they see a nice boost," Mankato's chamber president Anna Thill said. Thill says last year more than 50,000 fans attended camp. The city, university, and Vikings have also just inked a deal that will keep the camp down in Mankato for the next three years.
Grand plans for four tailgate parties on reporting day were just about ruined when Mother Nature opened up the sky and dumped on the region in the afternoon. But it didn't dampen the mood for fans, or players.
"First day of training camp is always a lot of anxiety and excitement. I feel good about the team, excited about the year and it all has to happen one day at a time and now we're at day one and the journey starts," Vikings veteran linebacker Chad Greenway explained.