Editor’s Note: Mark Cryan, former MiLB general manager and Ballpark Digest contributing editor, embarked on an epic ballpark tour this summer, and he filed regular dispatches from the road. Today’s stop: Target Field.
As we said goodbye to the rugged, wide-open spaces of Pioneer League country, we said hello to the flat lands that Garrison Keillor might describe as being “on the edge of the prairie.” Minneapolis was a special stop for us on this great odyssey. We had a home to stay in, courtesy of our friend Dawn, who along with her wonderfully named husband Branch (yes, he is named for THAT Branch) and their son Todd. For three nights, we experienced life with no check-out times, a free place to do laundry, and a fridge full of food.
We also had our own version of Huck Finn’s adventures, boating on the Mississippi, including a night cruise with the city lights aglow. There was also a day cruise where due to lax oversight of the fuel supply (by your trusty correspondent) we almost had to call out the Coast Guard to keep us from floating over the dam. Fortunately, we were able to depend on the kindness of strangeness in the form of a fellow boater who offered his spare gas can, as long as we could make it to the dock to get it!
Twice as Nice
Baseball fans in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul must be some of the luckiest people around. To have a unique and beautiful state-of-the-art Major League ballpark like Target Field in Minneapolis, along with the St. Paul Saints’ sleek new downtown downtown is a rare treat, and we were able to actually enjoy an incredible doubleheader on one of the days we were there, with a Twins game at 1 p.m. and a Saints game at 5.
We did see a third ballpark that day, and frankly, that was a bit sad. A planned “drive-by” of the old Saints ballpark turned into a “drive-in” when we found the back gate hanging open. We drove our old Dodge van right onto the warning track and saw first-hand the graffiti-covered shell that is what’s left of the Saints former home.
This is Twins Country
The shell of the Saints’ formr home stood in stark contrast to the Twins new home, which still has that new-car smell despite the fact that it has been open for several years. Squeezed into an eight-acre site hemmed in by the Target Center arena, a parking deck, a light-rail line and city streets, this is a true downtown ballpark where the challenges of the site were turned into a unique design. For example, the designers of this park, Populous, turned an existing parking deck into an attractive part of the main entry plaza with a subtle piece of checkerboard art that reflects the sun and wind in constantly changing patterns.
A light-colored native stone sets the tone for a very distinctive ballpark. The lower seating bowl has a relatively shallow rake, and combined with the color scheme, give the park a very warm and welcoming feel. There are lots of rounded edges and extra finish elements that give this park a first-class feeling. There are also elements designed to battle the elements, like overhead heaters throughout the concourse and a heated playing field. This is also a very energy-efficient facility, with a LEED certification, and access to mass transit among the best in the industry.
Unlike the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the former home of this franchise, there is no roof at Target Field. I had a chance to visit with long-time Twins executive Bill Smith, who pointed out that there were at last 100 million reasons not to put a roof on the ballpark. Costs of a retractable roof could, in fact, have easily exceeded $150 million. Smith also pointed out that the Twins are not the only cold-weather team in Major League Baseball, and it’s true that Minnesota has cold weather, but so does Cleveland and Chicago, and even New York has had games snowed out.
Our visit with Bill also included the opportunity to see some of the beautiful design and decoration of the suite level, and we enjoyed the climate-controlled club-level concourse. There were some great displays of Twins memorabilia, and artwork throughout the concourses honored Twins legends like Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew.
We shared a Twins-branded pizza that was one of the best ballpark food items I’ve eaten. We also enjoyed some fried cheese curds, a Midwest delicacy that sounds pretty strange, but were really delicious. As an added bonus, they were even served in a cardboard canoe!
We saw some tremendous performances during the course of this trip, and our first game in Minnesota was one of the most memorable. The Twins were hosting the Yankees while trying to stay alive in the hunt for the postseason. In this game, Alex Rodriguez came to bat as the Yankees DH amid a chorus of boos. A-Rod turned the boos into bombs, depositing three home runs into the far reaches of Target Field, powering the Yankees to victory. We also saw former Burlington Indian C.C. Sabathia pitch for the Yankees while were in Minnesota.
Target Field certainly holds its own among the new generation of ballparks, and it has brought blue skies and real grass back to Major League Baseball in Minneapolis. With great fan amenities, a footprint that fits perfectly into downtown Minneapolis, and plenty of respect shown for the franchise’s history, Target Field is a home run.
Previous Installments in the Baseball Across America Series
Kansas City, Kansas
Kansas City, Missouri