We want you to know what to expect at Minnesota Vikings Training Camp in Mankato so you can have a good time. In this, our third (and hopefully final) installment of our Vikings Training Camp Guide. We’re looking at a few topics that didn’t quite fit into the previous two installments: weather, handicap accessibility, autographs, and security.
If you’ve ever wanted to freak out an NFL team, just ask them about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.
I did that (quite innocently) last year because some fans had expressed concerns about going to Vikings Training Camp–they wanted to know before they got there if Blakeslee Stadium and the practice fields at Minnesota State University, Mankato were handicap accessible. The team was very helpful in my search for information and told me what they knew. Since the Vikings rent the facility from the university, they are limited by what the university has in place for ADA compliance, but the team shared what they knew:
- Both Blakeslee Stadium and the practice fields are equipped with ramps so fans with mobility issues will be able to see the practices. The ADA seating at Blakeslee is quite limited so the team has some designated areas around the stadium for fans with accessibility needs. There is ADA seating available in the bleachers near the practices fields.
- If you have any questions about ramps or ADA seating, the Vikings have an information booth in the Vikings Village. And, according to what the team told me, their people have been trained to help fans of all abilities. I would recommend that instead of asking about the ramps and seating, ask them to have someone escort you. This is one of the reasons why they have event staff and it will make your life easier.
- If you have specific questions about ADA accessibility, it is best to contact the university–not that they make it easy. Most of the accessibility information on the university’s website relates to accommodations for students or employees with disabilities, not casual visitors. However, I did find an accessibility map of the campus and it shows the location of the ramps for not only Blakeslee Stadium, but also for Myers Field House where the team practices in case of weather. The number for the campus is 1-800-722-0544. If you can’t get the information you need from the university, contact the Vikings through their website and tell them you’ve tried contacting the university first and could not get any help.
Minnesota weather is changeable. According to the FAQ and Info section their site, if the Vikings decide to hold practice indoors, it will be in Myers Field House and the seating for fans is very limited. Make your way to Myers Field House as soon as an indoor practice is announced to make sure you have a seat.
If you don’t already have a good weather app on your phone, consider getting one that gives you alerts for severe weather. And, if you use Twitter, follow both the team (@Vikings) and the team’s public relations account (@VikingsPR) for practice updates.
For many fans, getting autographs is an important Training Camp experience. Here are a few tips:
- Read the Autograph Zone information on the Vikings site carefully. They have a lot of information about how the Autograph Zone works, how many items you can have signed, what days different players will be there, and more.
- Be prepared. Mankato isn’t that big of a place and there are 90 players wandering around the campus, often on bicycles–not all autograph opportunities will be at the Autograph Zone. Keep a permanent marker and something to sign with you so you’re ready if you see players.
- Be patient. Snagging a coveted autograph can require patience. If you are going to the Autograph Zone to bag Harrison Smith’s scrawl, you’ll want to get in line early. Really early. The other prime time for autographs is following the afternoon practice as the players leave the field. That means you’ll probably want to be in position before the practice ends.
- Be polite. After the afternoon practice, players are often herded toward special guests of the team. This means it can take awhile before a popular player is jogging past autograph-hungry fans. Players seem to give preference to the handicapped and to kids. After that you have tired sweaty players, who may or may not have been chewed out by a coach, trying not to be jerks on their way to the ice tub. Popular players will have handlers who can be the bad guy for them when they are done with autographs, the other players have to duck their heads and just jog past the fans.
Cut the security people some slack.
It isn’t easy to keep everyone happy and safe at training camp when people want autographs and selfies with sweaty players, or a better seat during the afternoon practice. Add in the post-9/11 attention to terror, or the activist crowd’s attention-getting activities, and it makes security personnel’s jobs that much more challenging.
Whether they are telling fans not to block the aisles or that a player is done signing autographs for the day or dealing with weather emergencies, the security personnel don’t have an easy job. Because the campus is open for summer classes, it is that much harder on the security personnel to limit potential threats to players and fans. Do what they say and don’t give them crap.