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Last year for Vikings camp in ’Kato

A 52-year tradition is ending at the end of this week — it’s the last year that the Minnesota Vikings will hold their annual training camp in Mankato, what was formerly known as Mankato State University, now known as Minnesota State University Mankato.
For generations, fans who could not afford a ticket to a regular season game flocked to the campus to watch the Vikings work out. It was a family tradition for many, both Minnesotans and fans from out of state.
Children (and adults) would watch in awe as athletes whom we usually see only on the small screen walk out before us in person, even shaking hands and signing autographs.
And there was something in the knowledge that these highly paid pros slept in dorm rooms, ate pizza at local restaurants and rubbed shoulders with us mere humans that made them very real to us, not just a personality from the television and the sports pages.
Having a pro sports team train in a town that embodies everything that is Minnesotan — corn, lakes, a river and a mixture of historic industry and modern retail businesses. Plopping the Vikings down in the south-central core of Minnesota made them seem, well, Minnesotan.
Next year, the Vikings will be training in their new training center and team headquarters in Eagan. To quote the Star Tribune, “the new digs will have up-to-date amenities and world-class comfort: lounges for relaxing, auditoriums to watch films, baths for physical therapy and, for the first time, their own stadium that can set up to 10,000 fans.”
No more sleeping in dorm rooms, playing on a small-college field, eating in a cafeteria, and generally being one of the general populace.
While all of the state-of-the art amenities of the new training center will be great for the players, it will more than likely make the athletes we so admire seem even more remote to us.
And that’s too bad. Just ask any kid who has fist-bumped his favorite pro baller. Summer football camp in Mankato is a state tradition that will be sorely missed.