8/16. Game time- 7:05 PM
Weather: 78 degrees, overcast
Matchup: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins
Pitchers: Gavin Floyd vs. Francisco Liriano
Result: MIN 7, CWS 6, W- Manship (1-0) L- Floyd (8-10)
Ticket Purchased: Standing room only, $22
Beer of choice: Summit Extra Pale Ale – $7.50
Food: Pork chop on a stick ($7.25), Corn dog ($3.50)
Travel cost: $6 for a Day Pass, $4 for a Six-Hour Pass
Total spent: $46.25
To understand the average Twins fan is to tell the story of a caged bird. Understand that Minnesota is a place where seasons are felt and appreciated, even endured. Contrast that with the average Bay Area citizen, who only knows wet and dry seasons, some of those wet seasons being not so wet at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mild, dry climate that is so great for nine months of the year, the other three being quite bearable. We just have a tendency to take such pleasures for granted.
The Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome was a place where seasons couldn’t be felt. Sure, there were plenty of institutions built in the Twin Cities to protect citizens from the harsh winters, such as the Skyway and Mall of America. The Metrodome was different, as it belied every natural instinct any kid playing baseball grew up with. So when Target Field opened, it quickly became a celebration of baseball and of the rites of spring and summer. To that, I toasted with many a Minnesotan over their new jewel.
Target Field may be the most transit-friendly ballpark in the nation. It was designed as both a ballpark and a transit hub, with a light rail station alongside it, a commuter rail station underneath it, and weatherproof bus platforms adjacent to it. It’s an extremely clever and convenient arrangement, which paid off for me in a big way.
The local Amtrak station is called Midway, a location considered halfway between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. The cheap hotel where I stayed was three blocks away. A frequently running bus route which serves the University of Minnesota got me from Midway to Target Field in 25 minutes for $2. The major airport also links to the ballpark and the Metrodome via the light rail line. Parking at several garages within a few blocks of the ballpark ran only $5.
All of the buildings in the downtown area are connected by the Skyway, a series of elevated pedestrian bridges used by workers and shoppers to escape the snow. While the Skyway doesn’t connect directly to the ballpark, it does take fans to Target Plaza, which to me is the most dramatic entrance to a ballpark in MLB. Target Plaza has been likened to an arm reaching out to the city, which it most certainly is. Instead of blocking off vehicular traffic to make the plaza bigger, traffic is routed underneath while the plaza tapers to become a sheltered sidewalk underneath Target Center, the local arena. The mass of fan movement is entirely visible along 6th St N, as is the entrance to the stadium, which beckons fans to come inside. As much time as I’ve spent describing the experience, it doesn’t come close to what it means to experience it in person.
I had gotten to the ticket booths by 11 AM to see if I could take the tour. Alas, the Twins don’t hold tours on gamedays. Discouraged, I asked about tickets for the that night’s game against the second place White Sox. Only $22 standing room tickets remained, the seller said. That was fine with me, as I was going to spend most of my time roaming around the ballpark anyway.
I returned to the ballpark at around 5:30, making sure to use the Target Plaza entrance as many others were. Once I had taken in the scene in the RF plaza, I walked along the 1B main concourse, where the views of both the ballpark and the city as a backdrop got progressively better. Amazingly, the concourse was 45 feet wide, not including the designated standing room and wheelchair areas. Then I took the escalators to the upper deck. I ascended to what I assumed to be the worst seat in the stadium, LF corner, last seat, top row (see top for panorama). The seat was better than what I had at Busch a few days earlier, in large part because of the diminished height.
Walking along the upper concourse, a few things stood out. The three-part columns that hold up the “floating” roof and upper deck differ from those at most other recent ballparks, which usually employ a column/beam/truss design. The roof is made of metal strips and holds the field lights and the speakers for the upper deck. That makes for a very clean implementation, though fans don’t get the benefit of heat as the lower deck folks do in some of the public areas. One way the Twins addressed the cold issue is to put an indoor bar, or rather a series of small bars, behind home plate along the upper concourse. If you and your friends have SRO tickets and get there early enough, you can set up a perch with a great view of the game, a drink rail, and a very convenient bar within a few steps. One of the bars even has the ballpark’s organist playing in the middle of it!
In their effort to keep the revenues at this smaller facility up, the team made a few unusual design choices. On television you’ll see a curved set of outfield seating sections in RF. Those seats, along with some signage, disguise a large parking ramp. A three-deck structure in LF is somewhat reminiscent of a similar structure at old Metropolitan Stadium and provides a few thousand seats. Along with the bars on the upper concourse, there are other spaces built out along the 1B line that belong to the Twins. Essentially, the team chose to move their stadium operations staff up there instead of making a larger press box along the mezzanine. By doing this, the team freed up more room for suites.
The stands of choice are the State Fair stands, which have a bunch of items you won’t find elsewhere, such as walleye or a pork chop on a stick ($11/7.25 respectively). Cheese curds ($4.75) are said to be popular, and I saw at least one person with a $9.75 turkey leg. 16 oz. domestic beers are $7, while premium beers are $7.50. I chose a Summit Extra Pale Ale, perhaps the most popular local craft brew, for the small 50-cent premium.
Everywhere, ice cream and gelato stands were packed, even though it wasn’t a really hot day. The lower concourse has its own Asian stir fry station and carvery, both of which were placed right next to each other and caused serious traffic jams. Most of the regular stands were quite efficient upon observation, which helped make the concourse look even better as a result.
Ramps are not a prominent feature in terms of circulation, as the 8-acre footprint did not allow for large or sweeping ramps. Several people who wanted to descend from the upper to lower levels thought they could use elevators along the 3B side. They waited futilely for a while before using the hidden stairs nearby. Most everyone uses the escalators. The lower concourse has 360-degree view of the field, including the batter’s eye. Like Camden Yards’ wall in RF, it’s not for the vertically challenged. Still, I managed to peer over the top and catch a good view from dead center.
One demerit has to be charged to the PA system. While I was at the batter’s eye, I couldn’t hear the PA at all. Even in other spots along the seating bowl, the PA was more than a little subdued. It’s bad enough that the announcer is a tad bland. Somewhere along the line someone decided that they didn’t need volume, which sounds strange given Twins fans’ prior experience with the now passed announcer at the Metrodome, Bob Casey. Even on TV, Casey’s somewhat shrill delivery (“KERR-BEEEEE Puckett!”) added character to a largely character-less place. It couldn’t hurt to have more energy at Target Field.
Another oddity is the naming of the sections. Here is another case where the neighborhood concept goes a bit awry. Along the Club level are 200-sections, but there are also non-Club sections named S through Z. Go up to the upper deck and there are both 200- and 300- numbered sections. What? If that doesn’t sound confusing enough, try to make sense of the legend below.
- I had mentioned the bars and the stadium ops buildings on the upper concourse. There appears to be room for additional buildout on the 3B side if they wanted. Access to the upper half of the deck is arranged via two sets of stairs and a catwalk. If there’s one thing I’d like to see stolen and put into Cisco Field, this is it.
- The part of the Skyway that leads from Target Plaza to the downtown core actually runs through the Target Center arena. It even has its own gate for access to the arena, plus a view into what appears to be a practice gym.
- Along the north edge of the park’s footprint is a queuing area for the light rail, bounded by a fence. That fence has a long series of mesh screen images of notable Twins in chronological order. That side is also open to the infamous garbage burning facility, H.E.R.C. I didn’t smell burning garbage while I was there.
- Three bronze statues greet you along Target Plaza as you walk through it: Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, and Kirby Puckett. Players also have entry gates with their number. The Target Plaza gate is Gate 34. Kent Hrbek’s gate is Gate 14, with a sports bar inside it to boot.
- I love how the ribbon board is organized, with a proper balance of advertising and game information.
- The limestone facade is good, especially because it’s locally sourced limestone, but Populous did this kind of treatment before with Petco (sandstone), so no novelty there. If anything, PNC Park’s limestone treatment is much more substantial.
- Along the parking garage wall facing Target Plaza is a kinetic sculpture by Sebastopol artist Ned Kahn. It is a series of hung “chain mail” panels that undulate with the wind, and is mesmerizing to watch. A similar installation can be seen at SFO’s BART station, attached to the International Terminal.
- It would be nice if there were more places to sit on the concourses, but again – 8 acres. Not much room.
There’s nothing fake about this place. It’s a ballpark, not an amusement park where baseball is played. Even with the new love affair with the Twins playing outdoors, I was asked by one fan how long the honeymoon will last, whether the glowing impressions of Target Field will be sustained over the long run. There’s still a palpable sense of wondering whether it was worth it, the natural Scandinavian sense of pragmatism, even austerity. I explained that the monetary value of an investment like this can only be measured many, many years down the road, and while I don’t like how the public financing part was arranged, it may well pay off for the public. As for the ballpark itself, a good place has good bones that stand the test of time. Target Field has good bones. Ride the wave and enjoy it, I suggested to him. Also, remember that Joe Mauer is a big reason this is here, and that this will be the reason Joe Mauer will stay here. By that measure, the Twins have already won many times over.