The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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July 26, 2013

Longer training camp good for businesses

Three-week camp longest in recent years

MANKATO — Mike and Amanda Nicholson are the kinds of Vikings training camp attendees that make a tourism director smile and business owners happy.

The Grand Forks couple comes to Mankato for camp every year, often for a week. This year it's a Thursday-to-Sunday stay.

"Probably about a grand," said Mike when asked to estimate what they'd spend during their stay here. That's for hotels, meals, gas, some shopping and money spent at camp.

"We probably spend the most on souvenirs," he said, holding up a couple of large bags he was holding in addition to goodies his wife was carrying.

"We try to get something big each year," Amanda said.

The memorabilia for the day included an Adrian Peterson print, mini helmets, signs and sweatshirts.

Anna Thill, president of Visit Mankato, said the city will benefit economically even more this year as training camp lasts for three full weeks (camp breaks Aug. 15). That's slightly longer than last year and considerably longer than two years ago when camp was shortened because of conflicts with an earlier than usual MSU class start.

Last year, the Vikings counted 52,000 fans attending camp events. The year before 60,000 turned out. Those counts, of course, include people who attend camp on multiple days.

"We always seem to get at least one fan from England and we always have Canadian fans who come down," Thill said. Based on surveys of visitors, fans come from about 30 different states and more than 100 Minnesota cities.

The economic impact of camp on Mankato is estimated at $5 million, a number Thill thinks is conservative.

"Part of it's based on how much a hotel room costs times how many nights and how many people. Obviously 52,000 people aren't spending the night in hotels, so we estimate how many do."

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