Bittersweet end for fans as Vikings wrap final Mankato camp

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After more than 50 years, the Minnesota Vikings training camp is setting sail for a new location.

Tuesday marked the team's last camp at the Minnesota State University Mankato campus. For many fans, it’s a bittersweet goodbye.

Father and son Vikings fans, Dale and Erik Anderson, have made Mankato their getaway for 12 of the last 14 years.

“We're going to be talking about coming down here to training camp for a long time to come,” said Dale Anderson.

The father is from Cold Spring and his son now lives in Eagan, where Vikings training camp will be held starting next year.

“It's cool they'll be in my backyard, but it'll feel less like a special occasion,” said Erik Anderson.

But the fans say they’ll miss the charm of Mankato and the chance it offered to be around other fans, get those glimpses of players biking across campus and the ritual of it all.

“It was perfect, perfect,” said Dale Anderson. “We'd check in, park the car, not have to move it for days.”

They knew this year's trip had to be planned, so they’d be there at the end.

“We got down here yesterday, a little bit shorter stay, but we just wanted to make sure,” said Erik. “It just seemed fitting that we come hit the last day of camp.”

For 51 years, which makes 52 camps, Mankato has been the summer home of the Vikings. It became a summer destination for generations of kids vying for autographs from their favorite players.

Decades ago, the camp lasted more than a month of camp to get players back in shape. Over the years, it streamlined to two weeks, since they now show up in shape.

To leave Mankato seemed inevitable, but for generations of fans, it’s the end of tradition.

“Kind of sad, I don't know if I can go to the new one, it's a further drive, you know,” said Pat Harrington, who drove up from Carroll, Iowa. “I'd have to stay overnight, it'll cost more money.”

“It just won't be the same when I can bike to see them in my backyard,” said Erik Anderson. “That sounds great, though! It's great, but I think it just takes away from the whole trek, the whole experience. I look at Vikings training camp as kind of being my end of summer retreat.”