By Marshall Tanick
The gathering of the Minnesota Vikings a few weeks ago to begin their last summer training camp in Mankato raises recollections of how the team about made Golden Valley its home.
The club previously announced it will move its headquarters and practice field from Winter Park in Eden Prairie, the 12-acre parcel where the club has been situated for more than 30 years, after bypassing Golden Valley, to its new 185-acre site in Eagan, the former headquarters of Northwest Airlines. Along with that relocation, the team is terminating its 52-year summer training camp in Mankato, at the end of this pre-season.
All of these occurrences bring to mind how Golden Valley nearly became the year-round home of the Vikings, due to a confluence of factors, some of which are still in play today.
In the late 1970s, the Vikings were looking for a new consolidated business-practice site. By then, it had outgrown its meager corporate facility on France Avenue in Edina and sought to build its own indoor field in order to shed its nomadic ways of practicing at different venues around the Twin Cities.
The campus of what was then Golden Valley High School, immediately east of Highway 100 to the north of Glenwood Avenue, became available. The school district had closed due to declining enrollment, merging in 1981 with the Hopkins District. The Vikings closely eyed the facility for its business offices, along with its already existing adjacent football field, which could be converted easily into a covered site. The concept was in vogue at the time because of the contemporaneous construction of the $55 million indoor Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, where the team was about to play its home games beginning in 1982.
But, alas for Golden Valley, the Vikings ultimately could not strike a deal with the school authorities and set sail for Eden Prairie, where it has been lodged since the days that Tommy Kramer quarterbacked the team and Bud Grant was still at the coaching helm, winding down his first Hall of Fame career. Although some of its marketing and financial functions have been transacted elsewhere, the bulk of its business activities have taken place there, adjoining the practice football field, lockers and related facilities.
As for the Golden Valley site, in 1982 it became the home of The Breck School, a private institution dating to its founding as an Episcopalian church-related school in tiny Wilder, Minnesota. The school was in need of a new facility due to a devastating fire in 1979. The fire destroyed the chapel at its campus on West River Road, overlooking the Mississippi in Minneapolis, where it had been ensconced since 1957. Additionally, its growing matriculation, reaching a record height at that time, precipitated its search for a new home. These developments, coupled with the availability of the school site, made it a prime facility once the Vikings decided to move further west.
Breck has remained there ever since, winning a pair of state football championships among its 23 overall state championships, on the very field that might have housed the professional team. Ironically, the school’s athletic teams had, for years, been called the Vikings, until changing to Mustangs at the Golden Valley site. Meanwhile, the school has undergone a major transformation recently with an enlargement and modernization attributable to increasing enrollment, another ironic twist, because the vacant site initially became available 35 years ago due to the converse, declining enrollment.
All of which bears out the old adage: what goes around, comes around or, as a sage from another sport, Yogi Berra once observed: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Marshall Tanick is a Golden Valley attorney and historian.