With a sharp new social space that’s the very model of a modern sports bar and several new local food and beverage options, the Minnesota Twins unveiled upgrades to Target Field in anticipation of Thursday’s home opener.
Twins President Dave St. Peter introduced the new features at a Monday press event, where he discussed the “Target Field experience.” “We think it’s as fine as you’ll find in Major League Baseball or professional sports in the Twin Cities,” he said. While there were plenty of behind-the-scenes upgrades to the ballpark in the form of a new network, a new point-of-sale system from concessionaire Delaware North and new digital displays at concessions stands, the major venue changes are centralized in the right-field corner on two levels.
On the ground level, the concourse area was decluttered and reconfigured, allowing for a better traffic flow in an area that’s proven to be a bottleneck in seasons past at Gates 29 and 34. Concessions, including a new Drafts at 34 tap-beer stand and a Kramarczuk’s sausage stand (more on the wonders of Kramarczuk’s later), were repositioned to make way for a widen concourse. Also in that corner: a staircase leading to the new second-level Bat & Barrel space.
Social spaces are all the rage in sports venues these days. Target Field was a pioneer in this practice, with plenty of social spaces throughout the ballpark. (Want to watch a game in a heated social space next to organist Sue Nelson? The Twins have you covered.) Bat & Barrel replaces the old Metropolitan Club, a higher-end restaurant limited to season-ticket holders. It was an attractive space, themed around the Twins’ first Twin Cities home, Metropolitan Stadium.
That space, however, may not have been fully utilized as a season-ticket-holder-only space, and the Twins made the decision to convert it into a social space open to all. Along the way the Twins and partners Populous, Shea Design and Mortenson formulated a design that takes the best aspects of ballpark social spaces—great spots to gather with friends, family and acquaintances—with the best from sports bars. That means plenty of flat-screen TVs for watching multiple games, longtables for encouraging community, two large bar areas, and three large screens from Daktronics, focusing on Twins action and scoreboard following throughout the entire Bat & Barrel space. Add in some dedicated food items (we’d recommend the Murray’s beef tenderloin; stay away from the dry and kinda creepy Impossible Burger), some nice public art, access to outdoor seating overlooking the field (as well as some tucked-away Adirondack chairs that could be a nice refuge from the madding crowds) and a slew of Twins memorabilia (World Series trophies, Silver Slugger / Golden Globe / Cy Young awards, signed jerseys), and you have a space that potentially could be the center of the action on many game nights. (Shown above: a signed jersey from 1970 Cy Young Award winner Jim Perry, sitting above the Cy Young Award.)
On the Food Front
We mentioned Kramarczuk’s earlier. When you talk Kramarczuk, you’re talking old-school—Kramarczuk’s has been a Nordeast institution since 1954, still serving cabbage rolls, goulash, piroshky and a variety of sausages to the masses. Kramarczuk sausages have been sold at Target Field since it opened, but the ante was upped for 2018 with the addition of a cheese brat to the Kramarczuk lineup. Highly recommended with sauerkraut. You can wash it down with a 7.2 ABV Kut Down IPA, a limited-edition Surly/Glen Perkins collaboration available at the Drafts at 34 stand right below the Bat & Barrel space. Perkins is as Minnesotan as they come—he attended Stillwater High School and the University of Minnesota before blossoming into an All-Star reliever with the Twins—and worked with Minneapolis’s Surly Brewing on this IPA he originally created as a homebrewer. It’s both hoppy and citrusy and a lighter pour despite the ABV and amber color. It’s one of many local beers on tap at the Drafts at 34 stand, with many more served throughout the ballpark. (Yes, the K in Kut Down is intentional, and on the beer’s logo it’s featured as a backwards K, the scoring system for a strikeout with a batter caught looking.)
And, as usual, the Twins unveiled other new ballpark foods—Holy Land shawarma wraps, poke, rice bowls—but none of them rise to the presence of a new Kramarczuk’s sausage. In the Bat & Barrel area, the bars are serving a great summer drink, developed by local distillery Tattersall. The Ballpark Bootlegger combines Tattersall Vodka with lime and lemon juices, along with a slight bit of mint.