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Prep football at new Vikings practice facility scaled back for this fall

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 05/03/18, 5:15PM CDT

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Expect to see one regular season game at the Twin Cities Orthopedic Stadium in Eagan, along with a day of a pre-season scrimmages.


Construction workers work on the stadium last fall. Photo: Leila Navidi * leila.navidi@startribune.com

Once set to blitz, the Minnesota Vikings are backpedaling on how many high school football Friday nights they will host this fall at Twin Cities Orthopedic (TCO) Stadium in Eagan.

One regular season game will be played, along with a multiple-team scrimmage on Aug. 25 and the possibility of two football state tournament quarterfinal dates, said Bob Madison, Minnesota State High School League associate director.

His disclosure Thursday reflects much less football than Viking officials envisioned in an April 2017 presentation at a league board of directors meeting. Lester Bagley, the Vikings executive vice president of public affairs and stadium development, and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren introduced a “Minnesota Friday Night Lights” concept of regular-season rivalry football games broadcast to a statewide television audience.

In addition, they projected TCO Stadium, the newly opened 6,000-seat, synthetic turf venue, as a host site for state tournament games in soccer and lacrosse.

Bagley, in a text message Thursday, wrote, “We want to put a viable program together this year, along with the MSHSL, that we can build on in the future.”

The high school league remains excited to partner with the Vikings, Madison said.

“They’re going to start with football, see how things go there and what they learn but they’d love to have soccer and lacrosse as well, down the road,” Madison said. “How they start this fall might look different in years to come.”

The concern of how to compensate host schools for lost gate revenue that, for some larger metro schools can exceed $10,000 per game, was “by no means a hindrance at this point,” Madison said, adding that the Vikings needed more time than initially thought to know the ebb and flow of a new facility.

“There’s very little time when people aren’t there,” Madison said. “I think learning what it’s going to be like during the preseason, regular season, when they’re home versus when they travel – I don’t think they know that yet.

“But I’m glad to have their help in promoting high school football,” Madison said.

Bagley wrote: “We are still working on our game plan, but are anxious to showcase high school football at TCO performance center this fall and going forward.”

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