MANKATO, Minn. (KMSP) - For the first time in more than 50 years, the Minnesota Vikings will not be heading south of the metro for training camp in Mankato.
It was a tradition that drew thousands of people from all over the region to get exclusive access to players and coaches. Now, locals are feeling the impact of the team’s absence.
Normally the entire city would be lined up and down the streets with Vikings gear and decorations. The parking lot at Minnesota State University-Mankato would be ready for the first day of camp. But tonight, it's empty.
“When the cicadas started chirping and the corn got to a certain height and the weather felt right, it was just natural that the Vikes must be in town,” said Mayor Eric Anderson.
Mayor Anderson remembers stopping by MSU's campus as a young boy to watch training camp.
Getting to know the coaches and players as they blended in with the locals was just part of life every summer.
“There’s no way to replace this. It put the town on a whole new level; a lot of people would be very familiar with Mankato,” Mayor Anderson said.
Visit Mankato's president, Anna Thill, estimates around $5 million was pumped into the local economy from the Vikings Training Camp.
She said the camp helped put Mankato on the map by attracting people from nearby states. Now, they're working to book the calendar for these first few weeks of August.
“It’s going to take a while to fill that hole, but we already have some things in the works and so the community is not resting on its laurels. It’s going to fill the hole,” Thill said.
Over at Famous Jake's Stadium Pizza, customers are surprised it doesn't take over an hour to place your order, as training camp made up about 50 percent of Jake's business.
Though the city is quieter, photos and signed jerseys highlight the laughs and memories that were made here by Vikings legends and fans over the years.
“We’ll still survive, but what we’re going to miss the most here at Jake’s is the notoriety we had,” said Wally Boyer of Jake's Stadium Pizza.
Instead, many in town are hoping maybe the Vikings will play one scrimmage here to give a nod to the old times.