MINNEAPOLIS -- A decade from now, when the Minnesota Vikings' 2027 first-round pick wakes up in his new home, he'll be able to walk on tree-lined streets and around a lake on his way to work. If he needs to work with a rehab specialist on a nagging injury -- or meet with a personal trainer in the offseason -- he can make a quick trip over to Twin Cities Orthopedics' two buildings adjacent to the team's practice facility, while passing by the team's Hall of Fame and envisioning his name one day listed alongside Vikings greats like Alan Page and Randy Moss.
That afternoon, he can walk to find lunch, or possibly do some shopping. And then, he can stroll along another set of trails on his way home.
The Vikings' new 40-acre practice facility and team headquarters -- the TCO Performance Center -- is scheduled to open next March, but it will be merely the tip of the spear of what the Vikings have planned for their new complex in Eagan, Minnesota. The team purchased nearly 200 acres of land, on the site of the former Northwest Airlines corporate headquarters, and plans to develop a hotel, conference space, residential areas and retail over the next 10-15 years.
The "Viking Lakes" development, which sits in a leafy suburb 16 miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis, will continue a building boom that began with U.S. Bank Stadium's opening last year. It will consolidate the team's operations -- currently located in five buildings between downtown Minneapolis and the Vikings' current headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota -- under one roof for the first time since the Wilf family bought the team in 2005.
And, the Vikings hope, it can be their own version of Google's corporate campus: a place with enough spaces to live, work and play that players wonder why they'd go anywhere else.
"You can get all the services you need, but they have been bifurcated and broken up, so you have players going to different locations," Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren said. "The more we can create this environment, when we start talking about live, work and play, I know I would be ecstatic if we had players that actually lived here on the premises. If we build a world-class environment here, when the season's over, you might as well stay here. If you're going to get your best training, you're going to have the best facility in the world, you have rehabilitative services, there's no reason to go to other parts of the country. You might as well stay here."
The Vikings are the latest team to think of their practice facility as the centerpiece of a mixed-use development, much like the Dallas Cowboys did with their 91-acre complex in Frisco, Texas. The Viking Lakes plot should give the team more ways to interact with the community throughout the year (and, of course, more ways to boost revenue). The team plans to host featured high school football matchups on Friday nights, as well as high school soccer and lacrosse matches in the facility's 6,501-seat stadium. High schools in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district -- which already contract with TCO for athletic training services -- will have access to TCO's facilities once they open next April, and Warren admitted "it's possible" the team could move training camp to Eagan next year, after 52 camps at Minnesota State-Mankato.
Warren said some of the team's staff has already indicated an interest in moving to the residential areas around the Vikings' new facility once they're open, and for players, the Vikings hope it can be a kind of football utopia.
That idea, though, could run into two problems: First, while states like Texas and Florida have no income tax, Minnesota currently taxes 9.85 percent on income of $259,421 and above. And an even bigger impediment than the high taxes could be the low temperatures; while a handful of Vikings veterans have made Minnesota their year-round home, thanks in part to the area's high livability scores, there's no getting around the fact the Twin Cities have an average high temperature of 26 degrees in January and 31 in February.
Still, for some players, the Viking Lakes complex might be bold enough to overcome those obstacles. And, after outgrowing a 36-year-old facility that's lagging behind the times, the Vikings are on the verge of again having a place they'll be proud to call home.
"The facility is going to provide much-needed modernization, upgrades that set the pace within the NFL and are critical in recruiting and retaining future players," Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said.