Andrew Miller has been on the job as the Vikings’ chief operating officer for about a month now. It’s his first time living in Minnesota, and his first time working for a football team.
So far, he says, he’s been pleased with both experiences. “We’re looking forward to getting immersed in the community,” says Miller, a California native who's spent the last few years working for professional baseball teams. “People have been extremely welcoming.”
That includes Vikings players and staffers. Miller’s predecessor, Kevin Warren, has taken great care to prep him for the job. This past weekend, Miller met up with Warren in Chicago, where the Vikings played against the Bears. Warren, the first African-American COO in NFL history, left the Vikings last month to serve as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, based in Illinois.
Though Warren has taken a new gig, he’s “made it clear that he’s available at any time,” Miller says.
Miller comes to the Vikings after working for the Toronto Blue Jays, where he played a key role in a series of capital improvements to the Rogers Centre, the team's stadium. He cut his professional teeth working under renowned baseball exec Mark Shapiro. The two worked together at the Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians.
Miller’s got a lot on his plate – personally and professionally. His wife is due to give birth to the couple’s third child in the next couple weeks. Meanwhile, his family is still working out a plan to join him in Minnesota after the baby is born.
TCB caught up with Miller fresh off his Chicago trip to talk about his plans for the Vikings. (This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Q | You’ve said this job hadn’t been on your radar. What was appealing about working for the Vikings?
A | When I had a chance to meet the Wilf family, that really solidified my interest in the job. They’re very focused on building a winning team on the field and building a successful organization off the field. They’re really focused on developing a world-class fan experience and creating a positive impact on the Minnesota community. All those things are in line with things I’m interested in. We have the opportunity as a business to build on the passion of Vikings fans, and to find different ways to engage fans. We can continue to develop the facilities around Eagan, around the U.S. Bank Stadium.
Q | When it comes to fan engagement, are there any immediate opportunities that come to mind?
A | At this point, I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and it’s a good time to do that with the season ongoing. I think my first impression has been the fans’ overwhelming passion. There are the things the team has done to cultivate the in-game experience, whether it’s the Skol chant or the players’ introductions on the field. So, I hope to figure out what we can to do to continue enhancing that experience.
Q | You worked under Mark Shapiro for much of your career. What’d you learn from him?
A | I’d say it was his approach to leadership. From the very first time I met Mark, it was all about my development. I was coming in as an intern for the [Cleveland] Indians, and he sat me down and told me that my development was the most important thing to him. I also think about the culture that he helped create in both Cleveland and Toronto. It’s really about collaboration. It’s about empowerment. It’s about learning and trying to find ways collectively to achieve our goals as an organization.
Q | You’ve also had some time to work with Kevin Warren during the transition. Any big takeaways?
A | Kevin’s been incredible. He’s certainly a one of a kind as a leader and a human being. He’s helped me immensely. He’s walked me through not just team documents, but all the history and institutional knowledge. He’s shared his perspective on things. Kevin’s a very through guy.
Q | In your past life with the Blue Jays, you played a key part in developing a new spring training facility and building other infrastructure. How do you build consensus for making those big improvements?
A | Any time you build or renovate a facility, you need to ask yourself, What is it that the end user wants? And: How is that facility is going to be used? For the Blue Jays’ spring training facility, the users are primarily the players, along with trainers, strength coaches, and other staffers. If you’re looking at a stadium, there are a number of users, but primarily, it’s the fans. So, you really need to dig deep and find out what the fans want. You also need to know how those wants differ across different types of fans and different parts of the stadium. Once you have that background, then it’s trying to understand internally how to get the right alignment and consensus to move forward. These types of projects are a lot of fun, but they’re very complex. It takes a lot of time to make sure that every person that’s involved is aligned. And you need to make sure you really understand the needs of the user.
Q | Vikings’ ownership stepped into the esports realm earlier this summer. What are your thoughts on the future of esports?
A | I’ve had a couple of conversations with the team that’s running esports, but it’s not something that I’m going to be focused on a daily basis. There’s a good crew of people that are leading that effort. It’s obviously something that’s growing immensely, and it’s gotten a significant following, especially among younger fans.
Q | Any other unique business opportunities you’d like to go after?
A | I think I’m a little too early in the process to know. One of the things that’s exciting is the Wilf family’s open-mindedness. They’re always looking to find different ways to expand and grow the brand continue to enhance the community. There really isn’t a limit on the things we could pursue.