Fan's guide to Vikings 2013 training camp
This is the 13th in a series of 13 previews leading up to the Minnesota Vikings' July 26 start of camp.
The Minnesota Vikings like it in Mankato, Minn. so much, they've decided to extend their stay.
This year marks the 48th year the team has held training camp in Mankato, and an agreement announced this week has the Vikings slated for two more years at Minnesota State University for an even 50 years of camp practices in Mankato. Only the Green Bay Packers have held training camp in the same location for a longer period of time. Green Bay makes the trek to St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisc. again this year, the 56th time for the Packers.
And for the second straight year, Minnesota is extending its time down in Mankato, staying nearly three weeks with 16 scheduled practices. The Vikings reported to Mankato on Thursday and the first practice is scheduled for Friday, July 26 at 10:30 a.m.
There is one change for the players. No longer will they be staying in Gage Hall near the practice fields. Gage Hall was torn down and the team will be staying in the Julie Sears Residence Hall.
While fans have become well accustomed to the city of Mankato and the short drive down Highway 169 from the Twin Cities, below is everything fans need to know before making the trip down southwest to Mankato.
The Vikings are using the same camp schedule they did last season, when they went to walk-through practices in the morning with their full-padded practices in the afternoon. Minnesota will break camp following practices on Wednesday, Aug. 14 in preparation for the second preseason game at Buffalo on Aug. 25. All regular practices in Mankato are free and open to the public. The practice schedule is currently as follows:
Friday, July 2610:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Helmets
Saturday, July 2710:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Helmets
Sunday, July 28Players day off
Monday, July 2910:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Tuesday, July 3010:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Wednesday, July 3110:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Thursday, Aug. 110:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Friday, Aug. 210:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Saturday, Aug. 310:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through7:00-9:00 p.m. - Full pads (Practice at Blakeslee Stadium)
Sunday, Aug. 4Players day off
Monday, Aug. 510:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Tuesday, Aug. 610:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Wednesday, Aug. 710:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Thursday, Aug. 810:30-11:30 a.m. – Walk-through
Friday, Aug. 9Preseason game at home vs. Houston Texans
Saturday, Aug. 10Players day off
Sunday, Aug. 1110:55-11:55 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Monday, Aug. 1210:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Tuesday, Aug. 1310:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Wednesday, Aug. 1410:30-11:30 a.m. - Walk-through 2:45-5:00 p.m. - Full pads
Parking is right near Blakeslee Stadium, just a short walk from the entrance to the Vikings Village. Parking is available in lots 20-23 and can be accessed through the entrance on Monks Ave. Minnesota State University charges $10 for parking in the fan lots.
Once in the Vikings Village, there are several fan-friendly activities and the practices are held on the fields behind Blakeslee Stadium. Fans can watch the practices from the open area to the east of the practice fields and the assembled bleachers, which fill up quickly.
In case of inclement weather, the Vikings may move practice indoors to the Myers Field House. Limited seating inside the field house may be opened to the public. In case of severe weather, the Vikings Village will close as well.
Fans have two options to collect autographs. The Vikings set up their designated autograph zone at the north end of the Vikings Village and have a different position group signing each day. Many players will also sign autographs, typically following practices, as they make their way across the street back to the locker room. From the northern side of the practice fields, players will cross Stadium Road over to the field house.
The designated autograph zone is to the north of Blakeslee Stadium and south of Stadium Road. Entrance into the autograph zone is free, but the autograph sessions are scheduled for just 25 minutes and lines form early. The gates will open at the beginning of each practice and fans are allowed to wait in line. Autographs are done on a first-come, first-serve basis and there is a limit of one item per person. Personal photographs are not allowed. The Vikings have a countdown clock for the 25-minute session and a horn will sound at the end of the session.
Running back Adrian Peterson's autograph time is a fan-favorite and Minnesota uses a ticket system for the running backs session due to demand. The first 2,000 fans through the gates at the opening of practice will receive a scratch-off ticket, with 150 of those bearing Peterson's name for the chance to receive his autograph. Access to the remaining running backs are conducted with the usual autograph zone procedures.
The schedule for position groups in the autograph zone is:
July 29Offensive line – 11:30 a.m.
July 30Defensive backs – 11:30 a.m.
July 31Linebackers – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 1Wide receivers – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 2Defensive ends – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 5Quarterbacks – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 6Defensive tackles – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 7Running backs – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 12Specialists – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 13Tight ends – 11:30 a.m.
Aug. 14Entire team – 11:30 a.m.
At the entrance to the Vikings Village, the team opens a temporary Minnesota Vikings Locker Room store to satisfy all fans' souvenir needs. The air-conditioned tent features merchandise, including jerseys, apparel, and items that can be used in the autograph zone. It is the only souvenir area located in the Vikings Village. Food and drinks are available for purchase in the Vikings Village with a variety of concessions available.
Aside from the two-a-day practices and autograph opportunities, the Vikings offer a few special events for fans. Set up every day in the Vikings Village is a kids' section with several fun football-themed activities. Two special events for kids are also the junior football clinic and Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders cheer clinic.
Saturday, Aug. 3 is family football day at training camp with a complete day of activities lined up. The Vikings Village is open at 10 a.m. for the morning practice, per usual, and following the morning walk-through, is the kid's junior training camp and the junior cheerleading clinic.
The junior training camp is from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium as is free for participants. Boys and girls of all ages are invited to participate. Each child must complete a registration form with a signed liability waiver. Registration forms can be found online at Vikings.com or picked up at the training camp information booth in the Vikings Village. Completed forms, with signatures by a parent or guardian can be submitted on the day of the clinic. Check-in for the clinic is 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the session at the north end of the stadium near the autograph zone.
The cheer clinic, conducted by the Vikings' cheerleaders is from 2-3 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium. The clinic is free. A registration form and liability waiver is required.
The annual night practice of training camp is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be conducted in Blakeslee Stadium. Following the practice, at approximately 9:30 p.m. is team introductions with fireworks to follow at approximately 9:45 p.m.
There is a second junior training camp date, on Aug. 6, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Fan appreciation day is Tuesday, Aug. 14 for the morning practice from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The entire team will be signing autographs in the autograph zone from 11:30-11:55 a.m.
The main draw for fans in Mankato is the Vikings, though there are several area restaurants and bars that cater to fans. Fans make the annual trek to Mankato to see the on-field product though and enjoy the football-related activities as the official start to football season.
Follow Brian Hall on Twitter