From outward appearances, things are quiet at Winter Park. Players still have 10 days before they have to report to training camp in Mankato, but behind the doors of Winter Park, there is a flurry of activity going on in preparation for the Vikings’ trip to London in late September to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium.
The basic framework of an itinerary has been set for the Vikings. As the home team, the Vikings will be in London for seven days, while the “visiting” Steelers will be arriving in England on Friday, Sept. 27 for three days.
Here is the breakdown of the planned Vikings itinerary for the visit to the United Kingdom.
Sunday, Sept. 22 – The Vikings host the Cleveland Browns at noon. Once the game is completed, the process of packing the equipment and travel necessities begins. It will be loaded onto the two planes that will take the Vikings to London.
Monday, Sept. 23 – The team will fly non-stop on a pair of Virgin Atlantic Airlines planes from Minneapolis to London. Because the Virgin Atlantic planes are so large, they won’t need to stop on the East Coast to re-fuel and can fly direct from the Twin Cities to London. The planes are expected to leave some time after 7 p.m. and arrive in London the following morning. On the flight, the passengers will lose six hours in the process because of time zone differences.
Tuesday, Sept. 24– The Vikings will land at Heathrow Airport late morning local time. A community event typical to what the Vikings do every Tuesday during the season will be conducted at a yet-to-be-determined school in the London. It is expected to be similar to “Play 60” events the NFL sponsors throughout the country. Following the community event, the players will be transferred out to an estate/golf resort in the countryside outside London that will serve as their headquarters and practice facility. It is truly remote – Luther Hippe, Vikings director of operations-team travel, said there is a small town about 10 miles away from the Vikings training facility. While opulent and containing a PGA-approved golf course, the Vikings will be far away from the bright lights of London and playing on a manicured soccer pitch transformed into an NFL practice field. NFL groundskeepers will prepare the site, but, given the British fondness for soccer, it’s been said that many of the elite soccer fields rival the best fields the NFL has to offer.
Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 25-26 – The Vikings will conduct practices that the team typically would do at Winter Park during any standard week of game prep. Portions of the practices will be open to the local media, as well as post-practice interviews to help promote the game to British sports fans. After practices, mini-busses will be available for players interested in traveling to London for a few hours to take in some of the local color and attractions.
Friday, Sept. 27 – The Vikings will practice in the morning and then travel by charter bus to downtown London and their team hotel in the mid-afternoon. The Steelers are expected to arrive in London Friday afternoon and stay in downtown London until game time. A team-sponsored event is scheduled for Friday evening that will be a break from the practice schedule.
Saturday, Sept. 28 – Both the Vikings and Steelers will travel to Wembley Stadium in the early afternoon for a one-hour walk-through practice. The team will conduct its typical pre-game meetings after dinner at the team hotel.
Sunday, Sept. 29 – The Vikings will play Pittsburgh at 6 p.m. local time in London – which will be noon Central for fans ready to watch a Vikings “home” game. The team won’t get out of Wembley Stadium until after 10 p.m. local time, so they will spend the night in the team hotel and depart in the morning.
Monday, Sept. 30 – The team will fly back to Minnesota in the morning and arrive in the early afternoon Minnesota time, regaining the six hours of time zone-related watch-turning that took place on the flight over. When the Vikings land, they will likely disperse throughout the country because it will mark the start of the team’s bye week and an opportunity for the team to decompress and get back onto a normal time schedule.
As with most itineraries, they are subject to change, but, as things currently stand, that will be the Vikings’ week in the United Kingdom as they export the Vikings brand across the pond.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.