The Minnesota Vikings practice facility will play host to the 11th Championship Weekend.
December 5, 2022 by Alex Rubin in News with 0 comments
On Friday, the AUDL announced that TCO Stadium, a 7,500 person arena that functions primarily as the Minnesota Vikings training facility, will host the league’s 2023 edition of Championship Weekend on August 25-26, 2023. The site also hosts Aurora FC, a USL W soccer team that reached the league final in their first year of play in 2022.
The stadium opened in 2018 as part of the Viking Lakes complex that also features an Omni hotel and residential units. Its location in Eagan, Minnesota, a suburb south of St. Paul, is close to the Mall of America and MSP International Airport. In early October, AUDL owners toured the facility and played a pick up game on the field as part of their annual meetings, though talks to use the site have been in the works since 2021.
“We are honored to showcase our championship weekend at TCO Stadium,” said AUDL CEO and Commissioner Steve Hall in a statement. “This venue meets the increasing expectations of our fans with its world-class facilities, state-of-the-art technology, and stunning hospitality areas. It’s the perfect stage to host the AUDL’s greatest players.”
After 2022’s return to fan favorite Breese Stevens Field in Madison, Wisconsin, this announcement indicates to a return to a venue originally built for a professional team in one of the bigger leagues. 2021’s event took place in Audi Field, the Washington DC MLS stadium, and 2015’s edition was hosted at PayPal Park (then Avaya Stadium) in San Jose, which was also built for the local MLS team. TCO Stadium will be the second Championship Weekend venue associated with an NFL team; the AUDL’s inaugural championship took place in the Detroit Lions’ former stadium, the Pontiac Silverdome, back in 2012.
The AUDL’s Senior Director of Product Marketing & Communications Ryan Pierce explained that the stadium is a perfect stadium for an AUDL showcase event. “It can hold 6,000 fans and then some,” he said. “Which is what we’re hoping for for championship weekend.” The AUDL’s biggest Championship Weekend crowd to date was around 3,000 people in Madison for the 2018 semifinal between the Radicals and Los Angeles Aviators.
The AUDL’s Minnesota Wind Chill and the Vikings have collaborated on a few crossover events over the past few seasons. Just this weekend, the Wind Chill and the New York Empire competed in a showcase exhibition game during halftime of a Vikings game. In addition to their burgeoning partnership, driven mostly by Wind Chill head coach and owner Ben Feldman, the league was able to forge its own partnership for this marquee event.
The league is also discussing adding complementary events to the weekend such as a music and food festival as well. Like it has in previous seasons, the league will also host activities specifically designed for young athletes and families. “Whenever we’re holding a national event where we’re welcoming fans and players from around the country, we want to get the community involved,” Pierce said, “and a big part of that is youth. We will certainly hold at least one if not more clinics…we want to get out into the community and connect with those local organizations face-to-face.”
This will be the 11th AUDL Championship Weekend. It is the sixth time it will be contested in a Central Division city but just the first time it has been in the Twin Cities.