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Despite initial worries, Eagan got a kick out of training camp

August 21, 2018

Fresh waves of purple and gold have been descending around the new Vikings training camp, boosting business and giving gawkers plenty to look at.

The teams inaugural camp in Eagan largely went off without a hitch, with some residents reporting that they werent even aware that the three-week session was underway.

Everyones always abuzz with, Do you know where so-and-so lives?andthinsp; said Lisa Nelson of Eagan. In fact, I may or may not have biked by Kirk Cousins house.

It wasnt always so neighborly. Locals in Eagan and Mendota Heights were initially alarmed about the facilitys bright lights and worried about congested roads.

But with business up and property values appearing to be rising, anticipated problems have largely failed to materialize and the fun benefits of playing host to the teams headquarters and some of its players have taken hold.

People created a storm in a teacup, said Ultan Duggan, a Mendota Heights City Council member who had expressed concern. Theres been hardly any impact whatsoever.

Local businesses, especially restaurants, saw more customers. Around town, residents spotted more fancy cars and occasionally even Vikings players themselves at places like the grocery store.

To me its been thrilling, said Dakota County Commissioner Tom Egan, who represents Eagan and Mendota Heights. Its so endearing to see the level of exposure that Eagan has gotten from this.

Officials with the team, Eagan and Mendota Heights credit the smooth sailing with planning and working together. Just one thing surprised the Vikings: The number of people who reserved free online tickets for training camp but didnt show up.

The team, which gave out 5,000 free tickets for each day of camp, released hundreds more tickets during the camps last week so other fans could scoop them up, said Jeff Anderson, the Vikings vice president of strategic and corporate communications. The preseason practices brought in 63,000 people, Anderson said, though 90,000 tickets were initially given out.

Its been an incredible experience, he said. Theres been an elevated energy level, I think, from our fans.

Some residents did report an uptick in highway traffic, though they werent certain whether to chalk it up to road construction or training camp. One Eagan resident groused online about the loud airhorns. People at Trinity School at River Ridge encountered a group of drunk fans in their parking lot.

But Tom Caneff, president of People of Praise, the group that runs the school, said the Vikings thought of everything from signage to port-a-potties by their overflow parking lot. We have seen nothing but graciousness, he said.

Planning and preparation

Much of the concern among neighbors centered on worries about overtaxed roads. Some living in Sunfish Lake thought that congestion might keep Mendota Heights volunteer fire department, which serves their tiny city, from reaching fires fast enough. Dan OLeary, a Sunfish Lake City Council member, said concerns remain.

Possible congestion at Hwys. 149 and 62 (old Hwy. 110) had worried Mendota Heights residents, since a traffic study showed that intersection already saw more cars than it could handle.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation worked with the Vikings and Eagan to make sure traffic moved smoothly, said Jon Solberg, MnDOTs south metro planner. MnDOT staffers tracked the Vikings schedule and modified traffic signals as necessary at 13 intersections along the Hwy. 55 and Hwy. 149 corridors. Things went really well, Solberg said.

Traffic counts on segments of Delaware Avenue and Hwy. 149 in Mendota Heights were close to the daily average, Solberg said.

Planning also helped make training camp uneventful for Eagan police, said Officer Aaron Machtemes. Officers attended to just a few medical calls, and made no arrests. The Vikings hired four to 11 Eagan officers to work at the camp each day, Machtemes said, adding that not one cent of the city budget went to providing those officers.

Local impact

Though the numbers arent in yet, Eagan businesses appear to have done well during the camp, said Brent Cory, president and CEO of the Eagan Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau launched an online tool called UTrip to help fans plan local itineraries to nearby attractions such as the Mall of America and the Minnesota Zoo, he said.

Eagan brewery Union 32 Craft House had its biggest sales night since opening last year during training camp, said bar manager Rebecca Zimmerman. Bar owners started a shuttle to take patrons the half-mile to and from the Vikings campus.

Its really been one of the more beneficial expenses, Zimmerman said, adding that the bar also hired 15 to 20 extra workers.

Some fans said they were impressed with Eagan. Eric Galush of Maple Grove, who visited camp on its final day, said he thinks the city is cool and will return. Nancy Commerford of Mendota Heights, who once compared the bright lights of the teams performance center to a circus, said shes thrilled by the citys rising stock. The Vikings agreed last spring to turn off the facilitys lights between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. after residents complained, and Commerford said theyve kept their promise.

Mary ONeill, who lives a half-mile from the Vikings facility, said training camp worked phenomenally and praised the teams planning, which included no parking signs near her house and limited access to her neighborhood.

But like others, she said the jurys still out on how development of the entire 200-acre Viking Lakes site will affect the area. Housing, retail and possibly a hotel are planned.

You can call us in five years and see what we think, ONeill said.

Erin Adler 612-673-1781

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