New Ballparks Continue to Dazzle
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
Minnesota's Target Field earns high marks
Kelly green seats? Red brick façade? Wrought-iron gates? Retro architecture? That is so 1990s.
Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins, is the newest ballpark to open in the major leagues. The venue has received nearly unanimous accolades from players, fans, and the media for its forward-looking design, outstanding facilities, green technologies and fan friendly amenities.
The “retro” craze which began with Oriole Park at Camden Yards is dead. New ballparks at the major and minor league level emulated this design over the past two decades with great success, but by the time St. Louis’s Busch Stadium opened its doors in 2006, the formula had become tired, to the point that in the future people will look back and most likely call this the “cookie cutter” stadium of this venue.
Target Field uses limestone, lots of it, and it was all mined locally in Minnesota. Add glass accents throughout the venue, and you’ve got a stadium that stands on its own in terms of its cutting-edge design and look.
“We’ve actually got the second-smallest stadium footprint in the major leagues,” says Patrick Klinger, vice president of marketing, as he led us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium this past weekend. Indeed, Target Field is tightly situated at the west end of a bustling and vibrant downtown Minneapolis, adjacent to the basketball arena, the Target Center, and a quaint historic neighborhood called the Warehouse District, replete with dozens of pubs, cafes, shops, and restaurants, many catering to sports fans.
Klinger proudly showed off the many tributes to his team’s storied history and the region displayed in lounges and club restaurants named after such team icons Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and Rod Carew. Reliefs along the walls of the suite level concourse display the names of each of the more than 11,000 lakes in Minnesota. “We wanted to offer the fans not only a showcase to their team, but also to the people of Minnesota and all that this great region has to offer,” Klinger says.
One doesn’t have to enter the ballpark to get a feel of what actually lies inside. The spacious plaza facing the Warehouse District includes a timeline display of all the ballparks that have hosted baseball in this region over the past century and more. Statues of baseball greats, the actual flagpole which was used at the old Metropolitan Stadium, and nine huge baseball bats line the path towards the main gate. “We light up each one of them during the game for each inning,” says Klinger.
While this ballpark boasts all the modern-day bells and whistles in terms of technology—a massive HD video board, a plethora of dot matrix boards displaying pitchers stats, line scores, out of town scores, and digital messages—there is one great throwback to the baseball of old: a real organ.
Sue Nelson is the organist for the Twins, perched high above home plate, in an area called the Twins Pub on the upper deck. She mingles with fans and well-wishers, keeping a close eye on the game action and her cue to start playing. “This is such a wonderful ballpark. The locals and visitors alike come here with their eyes wide as saucers. We’re so happy to have outdoor baseball again.”
At one time Nelson was the organist for the NHL Minnesota North Stars at the old Met Center in Bloomington. “That was such a great old hockey barn, so intimate and loud. I so much enjoyed playing for the fans there.”
And what stands out as her favorite North Stars memory? “Definitely 1981 and our run all the way to the Cup final. That year we played Buffalo in the early rounds. They came in with Scotty Bowman and the French Connection and all that swagger, and our guys supposedly had no chance. But we beat them good that year.”
Nelson mentions the outdoor baseball, and that brought to mind the sometimes harsh Minnesota weather. The Twins have played for decades indoors at the Metrodome. We asked Klinger about the decision to build outdoors.
“As the stadium was being built, at almost every function someone would bring up the winter weather, and the question was continually raised by the public,” he says. “So opening day comes around this year and the weather is sunny and it’s 65 degrees. We haven’t heard a word about this issue since.”
Is this the best stadium in the majors? “We think so,” Klinger says. “ESPN The Magazine just rated us the best fan experience in all of sports, and that is something we’re pretty proud of.”
Hard to argue with that one.
Around the Bases...
• Congratulations to Bisons color man Duke McGuire, inducted this past Sunday into the Buffalo Bisons Hall of Fame. McGuire’s involvement with the team spans decades, as a public address announcer, broadcaster, and extra in the film The Natural, amongst his many talents. He is a joy to talk to in the Bisons pressbox and truly one of the all-time good guys.
• Welcome back Mike Hessman. Back in the lineup as of Monday. Might this be the beginning of a pennant run?blog comments powered by Disqus
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