The NFL season opens this week, and in a multi-part series, Sportico is examining one of the main components of ever-rising team valuations: the stadium. With the cost of materials rising, stadiums have become more than just places to watch football, as teams seek to earn year-round revenue beyond the 10 games they host each season.
After years of complaints about the limitations of the Metrodome, former home of the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family, who bought the team in 2005, was poised to open U.S Bank Stadium in 2016. The fixed-roof stadium was hailed as a major upgrade from their former home, but team ownership wasn’t quite satisfied.
So the Wilfs, who earned their fortune in real estate and commercial properties, turned their attention to the Vikings’ practice facility and headquarters. The team’s 40-acre site in Eden Prairie, Minn., where the franchise trained for 35 years, was becoming cramped and the opportunity to create a bona fide work, live and play community to allow staff—from top executives to summer interns—to work under one roof was too enticing to ignore.
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The Vikings bought the former Northwest Airlines headquarters in Eagan, Minn., in 2015 and transformed it into a 200-acre campus called Viking Lakes that includes team headquarters and the TCO Performance Center. The suburban destination, which opened in 2018, also has a trail system, medical offices, 800 currently planned apartments, restaurants, an Omni Hotel and soon, the corporate offices of media conglomerate Thomson Reuters. And there’s more yet to come.
While the NFL is experiencing a boom of entertainments districts and mixed-use development around stadiums, there’s also a trend of owners like the Wilfs looking elsewhere to create a social and commercial environment that can leverage the excitement of a team fan base far beyond game day.
“The stadium is one piece of it, but these [training] facilities are such a hub, and there’s so much…