It is the most modern ballpark built in Major League Baseball in decades, a daring 180-degree turn from the retro brick-and-steel look that’s dominated ballpark design for 20 years. Target Field, slated to open this season as the home of the Minnesota Twins, is unlike any other Major League Ballpark on many levels. Retro – the brick and the exposed steel first used in Buffalo’s Pilot Field (now Coca-Cola Field) and almost every Major League Baseball facility built since, including the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field – was totally eschewed in favor of a more modern design. That means a clean design, with lots of angles, glass, wood, and cantilevered areas.
Capacity: 40,000 seats (including 1,991 bleacher seats, 7,000 club-level seats, and 19,000 infield seats), 41,500 total capacity.
Dimensions: 339L, 377LC, 411LC, 404 dead center, 403RC. 365RC, 328R
Outfield Wall: 8 feet from the left-field foul pole to right center and 23 feet from right-center field to the right-field foul pole.
Owner: Minnesota Ballpark Authority
Architect: Populous (Kansas City), in association with HGA Architects (Minneapolis)
Construction: Mortenson (Minneapolis)
Project Budget: $545 million
Suites: 54 suites, 2 party suites, 8 event suites
Playing Field: Four-way blend of Kentucky Bluegrass
Restrooms: 401 fixtures for women, 266 for men.
Address: Technically, Target Field has a new address of 1 Twins Way, Minneapolis. Most GPS units and online map sites will not recognize this address. In these cases, use the alternate: 326 7th St. N., Minneapolis, MN 55403.
Parking: There are parking ramps next to the ballpark, most accessible directly from the Sixth Street and Fourth Street exits to the ballpark. On weekends, fans will want to park for free in the North Loop area and walk to the ballpark. In addition, the ballpark has skyway access, so you can park in any skyway-accessible parking ramp and walk to the ballpark. We’ve found that the cheaper surface lots can be found off the Fourth Street exit. Beware the Sixth Street exit: It puts you in the middle of Minneapolis traffic and not very close to any available parking.
Directions: Target Field sits on the western side of downtown Minneapolis. From the west: Take I-394 to downtown Minneapolis. The ramps at the Sixth Street exit are connected by skyway to the ballpark. From the north: Take I-94 to the Hwy. 55/Olson Memorial Highway exit and head east toward downtown. Take a right at North Seventh Street, and the ballpark will be on your left. From the south: Take I-35 to I-94 West. Exit at Hennepin Avenue and keep to the right. Stay on Hennepin Avenue to North Seventh Street or North Fifth Street and hang a left to get to the ballpark. From the east: Take I-94 West to the Hennepin Avenue exit and keep to the right. Stay on Hennepin Avenue to North Seventh Street or North Fifth Street and hang a left to get to the ballpark. There should be plenty of signage. Since the ballpark is next to Target Center, you can follow any Target Center signage to the ballpark. Bike riders can take the Cedar Lake Trail to the ballpark and park in one of the 300 bike spots in the ballpark site.
The best way to appreciate Target Field is by walking to the ballpark, preferably from the corner of First Avenue and Sixth Street. You’re at the intersection of old and new — Butler Square is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Minneapolis, while kittycorner Block E is one of the newest — and there’s a bustle there most hours of the day. Start walking toward the ballpark by entering the plaza. When you reach the gates of Target Field, the transformation will be complete; you’ve gone from busy urban landscape to bucolic atmosphere in less than two blocks.
The decision to go modern is a radical departure for Populous, whose reputation was made creating and honing the retro style in baseball. It’s a tribute to the Twins front office and ownership to stick with a modern style and wholeheartedly embrace it. Target Field is a ballpark built by people who love baseball and love Minnesota; you expect Garrison Keillor to be standing at the front gates offering hot dish and egg coffee to all comers.
The decision to go modern and put an emphasis on the details will serve the Twins well in the long run. The world didn’t need another retro ballpark. Ironically, the Warehouse District/North Loop location of Target Field is the perfect milieu for retro; there’s a lot of brick very close to the ballpark. And, indeed, the Twins ballpark design pays homage to that brickwork: the plaza serves as a connector to downtown Minneapolis does feature brick and exposed steel, along with a really cool hand-crafted wind shield on the side of the parking ramp. Each element of the wind shield was installed by hand, and the shield pattern changes based on the direction and intensity of the breezes. But the ballpark itself has no brick: the exterior is made up of Minnesota limestone.
THE MOST URBAN BALLPARK IN THE MAJORS?
Speaking of location: it is the most unique in the majors, to be sure. “We call it the most urban ballpark we’ve ever designed,” said Populous’s Bruce Miller, who showed us every nook and cranny of the new facility before it opened. Yes, there are plenty of urban ballparks billed as downtown ballparks, mostly in the minors. And Yankee Stadium is certain an urban ballpark, located next to parkland in the Bronx.
The closest analogy in the majors is Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, as both offer stunning views of the city skyline. But there’s not a MLB park so closely tied into a downtown area: Target Field is literally two blocks from bustling First Avenue (yes, you’ll be able to easily go to a Twins game and then hit the iconic First Avenue nightclub) and five blocks from the city’s business core. Commercial rail runs on one side of the ballpark, while two commuter train lines meet directly outside the ballpark.
The confluence of train lines (with the potential of more rail lines coming in the future) and the possibility of more development in the immediate area means Target Field could be a ballpark that clearly drives economic development. Ironically, Target Field was never pushed as an economic-development project by the Twins or Hennepin County; both took great pains to position the project as a quality-of-life project. Still, development in the area will be problematic (probably requiring some level of city investment), but already there’s a ton of new foot traffic in the area because of the rail lines, and that number will dramatically expand when the ballpark opens.
Target Field has the only canopy in the majors, which serves both as a shelter for upper-level fans and a place to hang lights. (Indeed, the canopy and the scoreboard hold all the lighting for the park; there’s not a traditional light pole in the place.) At night, the ballpark’s lights provide a nice diffused glow to the area. During the day, the scoreboard is a tremendously effective marketing tool for the team: the Twins logo at the top of the scoreboard hovers above the canopy and is clearly visible to anyone entering downtown Minneapolis on I-394.
Interestingly, though the Twins and Populous did a lot of studies as to how the ballpark would look for those entering via I-394, the scoreboard logo placement was not part of them. “It was a happy accident,” Miller admits.
While the strong urban location will be a great plus for fans in decades to come, it presented many, many challenges for lead architect Earl Santee, Miller, the rest of the Populous crew and construction firm Mortensen. The ballpark takes up 12.5 acres in just over a million square feet, but the actual land site is only eight acres.
The disparity: sections of the ballpark are cantilevered over things like rail lines and six lanes of freeway. For example, Target Plaza and the Metropolitan Club are both built above I-394, with the Club cantilevered over the plaza and the ballpark concourse. (Yes, there’s a wraparound concourse, despite the land issues.) Moving an existing rail line 63 feet away from the ballpark helped tremendously, so even though the Target Field occupies one of the smallest footprints in the Majors (planners of minor-league ballparks are frequently told to start with eight acres of land, though 12 would be better), it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot crammed into a small space.
That’s because the existing space is used efficiently. Fans will enter the ballpark through one of four entrances, each marked by a glass prism. (Each also meets ADA guidelines for access. Target Field has also been deemed the most accessible ballpark in the majors.) Many will walk from downtown Minneapolis down a new walkway running past Target Center and into the spacious Target Plaza. There, fans will be treated to that breathtaking moment when the field and the grandstand is viewed for the first time, a technique also used to great effect by Populous in Washington and Cleveland.
Many more fans will enter the ballpark from the Fifth Street side as they depart commuter rail; both the North Star Line and the Hiawatha Line end at the ballpark. There’s a good chance for congestion there: there’s not a ton of entry space outside the gates, and many will use Fifth Street as a route for dropping off friends and family.
A “TAILORED” EXPERIENCE
Once inside, fans have some of the most spectacular views in any ballpark; at dusk sunlight reflects into the ballpark off iconic buildings like the IDS Center, illuminating the Minneapolis skyline. Only the urban vista seen from PNC Park and the bay as viewed from AT&T Park come close to what fans will experience in Target Field.
Miller says the ballpark is the most “tailored” ballpark he’s ever seen, and that’s as good a term as any to describe the general feel of Target Field. All the finishes were chosen with care. This is the first MLB ballpark we’ve see where all the soffits and ceilings were finished (you usually end up with a depressing grey concrete ceiling in a ballpark), and the cream finish (matching the outdoor stonework) lightens the main concourse, which measures some 40 feet wide. There are wooden and metal drink rails everywhere – and we mean everywhere. It is a ballpark where a two-inch-thick wood door covers the entrance to the freight elevator on the Club level (a freight elevator, by the way, with the capacity to bring a vehicle as large as an Escalade SUV to any level of the ballpark.) Design finishes like this are the first to go when the inevitable value engineering takes place, but they made the cuts in Target Field.
The concourse signage is subtle but very memorable: the integration of the Target bulls-eye logo into the section signage is amazingly effective, and the concession signs are clear without being overwhelming. The modern design aesthetic extends through every part of the ballpark, including the 1960’s “Mad Men”-style lettering outside the Metropolitan Club.
That cool aesthetic extends to the outfield wall, where signage will be limited to four monochromatic pitches. The left-field scoreboard and the four LED panels in right-center field are where the marketing pitches will come from; yes, you see more commercials between innings, but the emphasis during play will be on the game. There is no advertising on the dugouts: there is a Twins logo on the first-base Twins dugout, and MLB logos on the third-base dugout.
There are plenty of places for the Twins to add signage in the future (for instance, there will be advertising right above the exits into the grandstands), but for now the Twins are taking a subtle approach.
Really, the centerpiece of the signage is the 57’-by-102’ full high-definition scoreboard from South Dakota-based Daktronics, surrounded by ad spots. It’s not the largest such scoreboard in the majors, but the scale of the ballpark doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a gigantic scoreboard. The ballpark was wired with high def in mind: everything related to signage, including video, is high def. Perhaps Fox Sports North can be persuaded to broadcast Twins games in true high-def instead of the wussy 720p they use for most local telecasts.
SHELTER FROM THE STORM
During the planning of Target Field, which included a lot of community input, many Minnesotans wondered why the Twins didn’t pursue a retractable-roof facility. After all, it gets mighty cold in Minnesota in early April; and you can bet it won’t be long before a season-starting series is snowed out.
The Twins stuck to their guns in arguing baseball should be an outdoor sport in Minnesota – but they made many design decisions on the ballpark to ensure fans are comfortable on those cool April days and nights. The players may be outdoors, but the fans have plenty of chances to stay warm from multiple vantage points in the ballpark, whether it’s taking refuge in heated bars in the upper levels, the spacious lounges on the Club level or the Metropolitan Club for season-ticket holders.
First off: there’s radiant heat throughout the ballpark, including the main concourse and the bar areas in the left-field corner. Given that there are 40-foot-wide concourses, we can expect fans to head back to the concourses on a cold day and suck up some heat – and a beer or two – before heading back to their seats. Folks sitting in the big-buck seats will also have access to three private clubs on the service level (more on those later), while the large concourses on the Club level will provide refuge to those on that level.
For those in the upper-deck cheap seats on the Terrace Level the Twins have installed three enclosed heated areas, complete with bar, bar rails and bar tables. They all provide excellent views of the action as well, and we’re guessing there will be more than one fan who buys a cheap seat and then sets up shop within the bar for the entire game.
And the same goes for the upper-deck bar in the left-field corner. Those seats are pretty exposed, with three rows of bar-style seating providing a great view of the action. For those wanting more refuge, there’s the Town Ball Tavern one level below. It’s designed to be an indoor-outdoor bar, with open windows in summer and radiant heat on cooler days. It will feature some unique food items (which we’ll discuss below), as well as perhaps the most unusual piece of Minnesota memorabilia in the place: the wood floor was used by the Minneapolis Lakers when the NBA team played in the Minneapolis Armory. (Similarly reclaimed: an organ console used in the Minneapolis Convention Center. Somewhere Ronnie Newman is smiling.)
If a fan decides to take refuge from the elements in a place where there’s no direct view of the action, there are literally hundreds of flat-screen televisions throughout the ballpark, including under the overhangs of the decks. All the displays, scoreboards and the phone system are tied together with an IP-based low-voltage system from Cisco. In theory, the Twins will have the ability to change prices and offerings on displays on the fly, but whether or not they do it remains to be seen. (Most teams with this capability don’t. The only places we’ve seen where variable pricing is used are arenas hosting NBA basketball and minor-league hockey, as is the case in Charlotte, St. Paul and Portland.)
A firepit located in the upper-level bar also provides heat to fans. The Twins aren’t the first team to do this – firepits were installed in the Dow Diamond, the home of the Great Lakes Loons (Low Class A; Midwest League), when it opened – but they’re the first MLB club to do it. At the ballpark, the firepits will be more about aesthetics than anything else, as the lawyers ensure no one can get close enough to the flames to receive much warmth.
Fireplaces are also prominently installed in the Legends Club and Champion’s Club areas.
Let’s face it: the Twins play plenty of games in cooler weather at the beginning and the end of the season. But with plenty of places to view the action in a heated space, the Twins went a long, long way toward addressing any concerns. Ironically, as the season played out, the concern from many fans ended up being the place was too hot in July and August: the effort to keep out cold winds in April and October ended up sealing up the place in the high summer.
HISTORY IN CLUBLAND
The iconic handshaking Twins logo is presented in outsized form in center field; the Minneapolis and St. Paul players will shake hands via LED (not neon) signs when a Twin hits a home run. Outside the ballpark there are displays of the many ballparks in Minneapolis-St. Paul history, as well as banners displaying the rosters of each Twins club since the team moved from Washington. Statues of Calvin Griffith (the man who brought the Twins to Minnesota), Kirby Puckett and Carl and Eloise Pohlad greet fans.
As we noted, there are five club areas within the ballpark. In each there are strong reminders of Twins baseball history.
The Metropolitan Club features plenty of viewing for longtime Minnesota baseball fans. Though there’s a hardcore group of fans who pine for the old Met Stadium, the place was really a mediocre facility, hobbled together in pieces throughout the years. It was the sort of place where you needed to physically leave the ballpark to get from the grandstand to the outfield bleachers.
Still, the Met was where a generation of Minnesota baseball fans was exposed to the likes of Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Bob Allison. The culture of the Met — tailgating, et al – is lovingly embraced in many graphics displays in the Metropolitan Club. Upon entering season-ticket holders will be greeted with a large photo of the Met when the Twins hosted a day dedicated to campers; the parking lot is literally a sea of mid-1960s campers. Opposite is a set of colored panels evoking the large panels at the Met. (History buffs will also note the original flagpole from the Met, which used to sit to the right of the scoreboard past the outfield wall, is now installed in roughly the same position at Target Field.)
Admission to the Metropolitan Club is a pretty decent incentive to season-ticket holders. It’s huge and airy thanks to the copious amount of glass in the design, and there are plenty of drink rails both inside and out on a small deck. Multiple prep stations will offer a multitude of offerings, with grills in front.
Also inside the Metropolitan Club: huge graphics highlighting old minor-league parks in the area, including St. Paul’s Lexington Park and Minneapolis’s Nicollet Park. There’s not a long history of distinguished ballparks in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area: before the two aforementioned ballpark teams played at a variety of low-end venues, including a ballpark designed by Cass Gilbert, who went on the design the Minnesota State Capitol and New York City’s iconic Woolworth Tower. (One of the early ballparks was within three blocks of Target Field, by the way.)
Twins greats are featured at First Base and Third Base Clubs on the service level. If you ever wanted to see Julio Becquer’s smiling face five feet high, the First Base Club is for you.
The big-buck ducats provide access to the aforementioned Champion’s Club, where fans will have access to a private bar and restaurant. The design has an emphasis on natural materials, and it sees plenty of action on cool nights.
Finally, there is one direct tie to the old Met at Target Field. Take a look at the 45-foot-high flagpole in right field. That flagpole was originally installed at Metropolitan Stadium, but during demolition it was relocated to Minneapolis/Richfield American Legion Post 435. When it came time to outfit the new ballpark, the Twins asked about returning the flagpole to a ballpark setting, sweetening the deal with a $10,000 contribution to the post’s youth baseball program. The original Met Stadium flagpole, by the way, stood 90 feet hight.
THE ONLY RETRO IN THE PARK
Twins history is also stressed in the Legends Club, the large club level between the suites and lower-level seating. Famous broadcast phrases from Twins games are burnt on ash outside the press box, including Jack Buck’s simple phrase after Kirby Puckett’s dramatic home run in the bottom of the ninth gave the Twins a win in Game Six of the 1991 World Series: “And we’ll see you tomorrow night.” (Speaking of the press boxes: they are huge and in some prime real estate, with broadcasters directly behind home plate and print up the first-base side. The Twins withstood the temptation to put press boxes on an upper level, like the Cardinals and Nationals did.)
That same design tool – burning images on ash – was used to great affect at Kauffman Stadium last season and achieves the same high level of impact at Target Field. Two huge lounges at first base and third base are anchored by multi-story images of Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew; longtime Twins fans may even tear up a little when they see Kirby’s smiling face two stories high.
Of course, we can’t talk ballpark without talking suite. Many have already seen models of the suites, but it would be misleading to dismiss them as Ikea-light: the design is clean and functional. Some may think they are a little sparse, but the decision was made to eschew the traditional suite sofa and maintain an airier layout. Most fans like standing around a suite, watching a game and visiting with friends; this layout allows that.
Outside the suites: the name of every lake in Minnesota is features on the hallway wall, while each suite is named after a specific lake.
Behind home plate and the press box is the 573 Bar, honoring Harmon Killebrew. The bar itself is very long and made from wood. The vendor on that project offered to supply a bar-length log for $100,000, but the Twins passed.
Most of the seats in the ballpark are of your standard garden-variety green plastic seat. However, club-level chairs have padded seats, while Champion’s Club seats are fully padded. Some of the club seats have slats built of ash. There’s a lot of ash in Target Field: there’s a nice tie-in to baseball (many bats are made of ash), and it ended up being financially feasible: ash-borer disease in Michigan meant a lot of ash was being cut, and vendor Irwin Seating Company jumped on the glut in inventory to provide an upgrade to the Target Field seats. It’s been since World War II that new wood seats were installed in a ballpark, and it’s perhaps the only retro touch in the whole ballpark.
There are also 1,991 bleacher seats in Target Field, all in the outfield. The left-field bleachers are totally covered by the overhang, and fans will be able to reach down into fair territory from the front row. Though very few people will ever see this, one section of those bleaches rise, allowing enough room for a semi-truck to enter the field. Why is this important? There will be plenty of room for the big rigs to enter should Target Field host a major concert or an outdoor hockey game.
There are also two smaller sections of seating in right field. Why so few seats out there? “That’s all we had room for,” Miller says.
EATING AT THE PARK
The Twins and concessionaire Delaware North are taking an interesting approach to concessions, almost totally eschewing third-party vendors (there’s no fast-food joint here like there is at Busch Stadium) and instead stressing home-grown creations.
There are two restaurants at the ballpark: Hrbek’s and the Town Ball Tavern. Hrbek’s, named for former Twins great and hometown hero Kent Hrbek, occupies some prime real estate behind home plate. With a capacity of 201, the sports bar opens to a fenced-off outdoor deck. While the ambiance outside may not be great – it’s right on Seventh Street, which can get very busy during rush hour – the windows can be opened to let in outside air at any time. Hrbek’s will be open prior to and during all Twins home games and will feature pub fare such as the Rex Burger, a one-half pound, all-beef burger stuffed with caramelized onions and pepper jack cheese, served on a brioche roll. Another tip of the cap to Hrbek will be Bloomington onion rings: sweet yellow onions seasoned, breaded, crispy-fried and served with a tangy campfire and ranch dipping sauce. When you go, look up: the silver ceiling features Twins logos past and present.
The left-field corner is shaping up to party central. The Town Ball Tavern, behind the left field foul pole on the Club Level, will feature Target Field’s own Juicy Lucy (or Jucy Lucy, depending on whether you think the burger originated at Matt’s (http://www.mattsbar.com/) or the 5-8 Club (http://www.5-8club.com/), a burger filled with cheese. As the burger cooks on the grill the cheese melts; care must be taken during that first bite. Also available: the obligatory walleye sandwich and a pulled pork sandwich.
Available on the Club level: fire-roasted pizzas from a gas-fired oven.
The concession stands at Target Field are branded with nine different themes, each with specific menu highlights. Three of the concession themes pay tribute to Twins greats: pitcher Frank Viola (Frankie V’s Italian), broadcaster Halsey Hall (Halsey’s Sausage Haus) and pitcher Juan Berenguer (Señor Smoke’s):
Mill City Grill – featuring the signature Murray’s Steak Sandwich and walleye fingers
Hennepin Grille – burgers, hot dogs, fries, chicken tenders
Frankie V’s Italian – a variety of pizza, calzones, and an Italian chopped salad
North Shore Creamery – soft-serve sundaes, Twins helmet sundaes
Halsey’s Sausage Haus – Italian and Polish sausage and jumbo hot dogs
Señor Smoke’s – from Juan’s home country of Panama we will feature empanadas and other regional favorites such as nachos, burritos and tacos
Taste of Twins Territory – beer-steamed brats, jumbo hot dogs and pretzels
State Fair Classics – walleye on-a-stick, pork chop on-a-stick and cheese curds
Twins Brews – craft and premium selections from Minnesota breweries
There are a few must-eat items at Target Field. First, the signature hot dog, supplied by Schweigert, is excellent; our tip is to seek out an open grill preparing dogs from scratch. Second, any brat from Kramarczuk’s is worth seeking out; there are freestanding Kramarczuk’s stands throughout the ballpark. The Hungarian, featuring plenty of paprika, is excellent. You’ll also find plenty of local brews at the park, including the iconic Grain Belt.
Some ballpark tips from Miller:
The best seats in the house are on the third-base side, especially for evening games. That’s where you’ll get your best view of the downtown skyline at dusk, with the sun reflecting off iconic downtown buildings like the IDS Center and the Wells-Fargo Center.
The best cheap seats in the house: sections 320-324. You’ll have great views of the downtown skyline and seats angled toward the playing field.
If you’re parking at one of the ramps surrounding the ballpark, park at the top of the A ramp. You’ll get out of the ramp faster after the game, and you’ll be close to the skyway leading into ballpark.
If you’re worried about the elements, sit in the last 14 rows of a section in the grandstand. These seats will be covered by the overhang, which does to obstruct the view a little. There are plenty of TVs attached to the overhang so you’ll never miss any action.
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