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A River Runs Through It

June 2, 2006 11:43 PM

Finally, something interesting about our new ballpark site: it sits on top of a river!

OK, maybe 'river' is a strong word. It's actually Bassett Creek, and it runs directly beneath the Rapid Park lot. Maps differ on exactly where it flows, but all agree it goes through there somewhere on its way to the river.

Bassett Creek's original path

Bassett Creek's original path (Source: Metropolitan Design Center)

Some history is in order. Bassett Creek begins at Medicine Lake, and is open to the air for most of its journey to the Mississippi River, including a large stretch which flows through Theodore Wirth Park.

In Minneapolis' early days, the creek flowed unchecked to the river, and this was a source of more or less constant problems as the area became more and more populated. Ultimately, it ran through heavily-populated residential areas. But it became something of an open sewer which had a tendency to flood easily and fill houses with all sorts of noxious debris.

Sometime early in the 20th century, a decision was made to divert the stream into a tunnel (actually two) so that the surrounding land could be developed. Ever since, the creek has continued to run and exit to the river through two culverts.

The north channel is the smaller of the two, and exits to the river just below the Plymouth Avenue bridge. This is the one which is actually visible to patrons of the Acme Comedy Club, located at 708 N 1st St. (There is a viewing area which actually looks down onto the running water!) It is also the channel which was brought back to the surface where it flows through the Sumner Fields rebuilding project.

Bassett Creek's path through the ballpark site

Bassett Creek's path through the ballpark site (Source: Minneapolis Public Library)

The south channel is the main channel through which the bulk of the water still flows, and this is the channel beneath Rapid Park. How this complicates the building of a stadium is anybody's guess. I discovered it in one of the Urban Ballpark documents regarding the need for Environmental Impact Statements, so it must be well known to the people involved.

City Pages did a cover story history of the creek a few years ago when the Sumner Fields reconstruction began. They correctly note that people began to regret burying the creek almost as soon as the project was completed, and even today there are those who would love to see it returned to the surface where it would, no doubt, increase property values substantially.

How about a stream running past our outfield fence? Or maybe underneath the grandstand but visible through a glass floor. Far-fetched, perhaps, but just the type of amenity which could become a signature.

Comments


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My wife has told me that the creek flows through the basement of the comedy club location....I've never believed her until now.

If they had more room on the site, they could turn the creek into an excellent feature of the park. As it is, I can't imagine them being able to squeeze it into the plans.

Posted on June 6, 2006 at 07:30 AM by Craig in MN Highlight this comment 1

Thanks for putting this page out on the web. The fact that Bassett Creek flows directly under the new Twins stadium site was not on my radar screen until I happened to stumble onto this webpage.
A little research would have to be done as to the depth of the creek in the ball park area. As I understand it, the creek at some point under Minneapolis, drops from a shallow depth to a deeper depth of around 40'(into the easy to dig sandstone layer below the harder limestone cover layer). Even if the creek is still shallow here, my personal preference is to restore and re-daylight the flowing creek back into the original natural corridor to the north of the Twins site- not in the corridor of the new 1992 tunnel where the creek now flows.
The old tunnel, that was constructed in the early 1900's roughly along the original natural path of the creek, runs north of the Twins site. The old shallow tunnel now only drains occasional flood overflow from the creek, as well as local street runoff.
I like very much the innovative and nice new water features in Heritage Park. These features are in the natural creekbed and old tunnel corridor, however, the actual creek is not daylighted here and since 1992 no longer flows through here.

Posted on February 11, 2007 at 08:43 AM by Dave Stack Highlight this comment 2

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