EDEN PRAIRIE — Team owner Zygi Wilf strolled into the lobby of his evolving headquarters in Eagan on Monday morning, Oct. 23, wearing a Vikings-horn construction hard hat and the future on his mind.
The Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center is 70 percent completed. The Vikings are scheduled to move there in less than six months. It will take until early 2018 for the club to reap contemporary NFL amenities.
"It's a long time coming," Wilf said. "We really enjoyed the years I've had, and the previous owners have, at Winter Park. But we feel it's the right time to move on and to move into the 21st century and reward our players, fans and the community with a great facility."
More than 300 construction workers are grinding, sawing and banging away at the structures that will cover 277,000 square feet across 40 acres near I-494 and I-35E, which was opened to the media Monday for a 90-minute tour and review.
Most of the exterior walls and roofs of the two main buildings are finished. So are the interior skeletons of the locker and weight rooms, auditorium, team museum and indoor field house — all of which were surrounded Monday by scaffolding and dust, lots and lots of dust.
Cranes hoisted workers to the top of the home office that finally will house all 195 Vikings employees under one roof after being for decades in five buildings across the Twin Cities.
Bulldozers sculpted land in and around the 6,500-seat outdoor stadium and four grass practice fields that will allow the Vikings to host their training camp at home after more than 50 years at Minnesota State Mankato. Plans are for the amphitheater-style stadium to host Division II and III football games, select prep rivalries and some high school soccer matches.
The Vikings' second-story weight room fronts a glass atrium overlooking the stadium.
"It's going to be a focal point for different sports, especially football, in the Twin Cities," Wilf said. "We're looking forward to the interactivity with our fans."
The first-floor hall of fame/museum will be open to the public. So will the adjacent facility being built by the team's corporate partner, Twin Cities Orthopedics, which has 40 clinics in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
The new sports medicine center will provide concierge-style surgical and rehabilitation care for Division I and professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts, and also hold research laboratories.
"We've been looking at the playbook, and we couldn't be more excited to see this come to life," said Chris Bailey, director of sports medicine and physical therapy for TCO. "Our partners and clients are going to experience what makes this campus so unique."
The Vikings' new facility will feature twice the square footage of Winter Park, its Eden Prairie headquarters since 1981. The fieldhouse at Winter Park has a 65-foot high ceiling, which precludes punters and kickers from practicing indoors. The new facility will have a 98-foot ceiling above its artificial turf, so punts and kicks can fly unobstructed.
The Vikings only have two outdoor grass fields to use at Winter Park but will double that area in Eagan. The natural grass fields were installed this summer with turf grown and shipped via refrigerated trucks from Fort Morgan, Colo., where the grass at Target Field also was harvested.
A two-story auditorium and media center will be able to host 175 people and allow players and coaches to conduct film study without worrying about stray footballs flying over curtains. Currently, the team meeting space cuts off a corner of the south end zone in the field house at Winter Park.
"The goal was to build something that was absolutely unique and the best in the world so our players and coaches can be at their best," Vikings chief operating officer Kevin Warren said.
The new media center will include 26 work stations for individual reporters and outlets, a sprawling press conference room and conference rooms for journalists to conduct private interviews. The Vikings press corps currently is housed in a small room near a bank across the street from Winter Park.
The former Northwest Airlines headquarters is being demolished to make way for 1,000 housing units, a hotel and commercial retail space that will constitute the final phase of construction.
"We have the 21st century technologies here and the facilities that will attract anyone who wants to come here and make this place their home," Wilf said. "It presents our future players and our current players a great facility they can really enjoy."