Last Monday an errand took me to downtown St. Paul and I decided to stray a bit from the most efficient route home.
This was before the heat which would ultimately overtake the week had fully set in, and so I left my car parked somewhere in the middle of that crazy kiddywampus street grid (a spot that I'm quite sure I could never find again) and headed on foot toward the site of a new ballpark.
It felt like old times.
I was quickly transported back to when I was just getting to know the North Loop, and experimenting with the most efficient place to park and steal a few moments from a workday filled with other things to grab some quick photos and dream a little bit about baseball.
The walk was sublime. The afternoon sunshine cried out, "Day game!" The site did not disappoint. (I'll be doing this again.)
Having followed this project rather closely, I didn't encounter many surprises. I've actually driven right to the site on several occasions and nabbed some "before" photos of the aggressively dispiriting building which currently squats on the land (architectural style: blank industrial). But, as we all now know, driving and walking are two very different activities. It may as well be two worlds.
And the one surprise I did encounter was a true revelation. On paper, this site already looks pretty good. It's got "infrastructure" and "higher use" as its middle names. It clings to an underused edge of the city grid, and effectively extends downtown, filling in an unwelcome cut. That's all on paper.
But on foot, at least on this sunny and optimistic day at the very beginning of construction, the site was a revelation. The walk toward it is through demure warehouse canyons, down positively quaint quasi-urban streets, and into a mythical past where the smart money always put recreation within arms reach of where the work was happening.
Well, it's not entirely mythical because that's pretty much what happened with Target Field. And this site feels like a handsome kid brother to the Major League's location.
My hope is that the team has already made contact with the people who own and operate the adjacent Farmer's Market. As I walked through there, this felt like it really should be the plaza for the ballpark on gamedays whenever possible (Sundays could be a bit dicey).
Additionally, maybe it was just the spectacular weather, but I started to immediately feel like the Saints seriously need to schedule some day games. I know that night games are the standard, and the conventional wisdom says will be more profitable, but this neighborhood has genuine Wrigleyville-esque potentials which just need to be tapped.
The actual facility they are planning to build there is still sort of elusive. I've spoken with some people at the Saints to see if I can follow the design process more closely, but no dice. It's not that they're unwilling, but it is a considerably smaller operation than the one across the river, and they just don't have the resources to do the press that this facility deserves. (Hey, Mike Veeck! I'm available! Call me!)
Right now, we've pretty much got a couple of concept drawings, and those will have to do. They are certainly impressive.
Click to see the full-size image.
Click to see the full-size image.
It looks airy, and modern, and expandable. It looks considerably more comfortable than its predecessor, while still with the potential for the kind of fun they like to have over there. I'll be on the lookout for more images, and don't be surprised if I start doing construction updates.
In the meantime, forget all the wrangling about money. Who cares about that? Leave it to the politicians. They'll figure it out. (Were you surprised to learn that the site is contaminated? Me either.)
And the neighborhood opposition will dissipate. There will be a day when no one will be able to remember why anyone would have objected to this. It's just too perfect. (I understand there will even be a tailgating lot to the east! Imagine that!)
Just know that, when all is said and done, you're going to want to see a game at this ballpark -- probably more than one. And as city amenities go, it looks right now like this one's a winner.
I want to say thanks to Mike Menner (a.k.a. fiesta) for a wonderful celebration of the Great Game over the weekend. Mike's been hosting an annual baseball party for 23 years. It's a pretty big event, and it was enough to make me forget for a few hours the sorry state of the home town nine.
It's an all-day affair on one Saturday in the middle of July, though it starts a week before with homemade sausage-making. (This stuff was positively delicious.)
It also includes taking in a Twins game as a group. His family and friends, some of whom hail from Cleveland, filled the Overlook at Friday night's game and were thus happy/disappointed with the final score.
Click to enlarge.
And Mike's infectious optimism went with me to Target Field today, and made it possible to think about the rhythm of the game instead of obsessing about lackluster play in the field, on the mound, and in the batter's box. In his words, "The game has a rhythm of its own, performed by many players at many different points in time. We celebrate those rhythms, their makers, and the community of people who join in. Our rhythms come from watching, cheering, playing, cooking, eating, laughing, singing and more."
Well done, Mike, and thanks for including me and my family. (And if that was Noah on the big board today, we missed it.)
Some of you know that I'm writing a book. It's about baseball and should be done soon. It, along with other things, has taken me away from regular posting, for which I apologize.
But here comes the shameless plug: You may not know that I've also been writing a piece of musical theater. Titled The Second Sleigh, it will be premiering on August 1 at the Fringe Festival. I wrote all of the music and lyrics and co-wrote the dialogue. (Click the link above to, among other things, hear me singing samples of the songs.)
It's a Christmas show, for both kids and adults, and lots of fun. You can find out more and buy tickets by clicking here.
Basically, I've been living this show for the past six months -- and as a result will be looking to make up for some lost income as soon as it's over... Any ideas/opportunities out there? Mike Veeck?
Thanks for including BallparkMagic in your 2013 season. It's been suggested that I seek out guest posters, and I'm totally open to that. If you have an idea, send me a message and I'm sure we can work it out. I promise I won't leave you hanging for so long next time! ("Around the Horn #3: Football Cathedral" is already in the works!)
"You talk about the magic, the aura, but what really makes a stadium is the fans. Concrete doesn't talk back to you. Chairs don't talk back to you. It's the people who are there, day in, day out, that makes the place magic."
– Bernie Williams
Explore the Site
Here are 50 images chosen randomly from the 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
The scoreboard terminates the view on Fifth Street as seen from Hennepin
The spruced up triangle really doesn't show much connection with the ballpark.
How many times did we water down our field as kids? More times than we played games, that's for sure!
Viewed from another angle, you can see that the bullpens now sit beneath the upper deck outfield seating.
Looking out from under Gate 34
Another over-my-head shot
One of those funny little sections above the entrance stairs
Skyline to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the outfield with you... (click to enlarge)
Still some work to be done on the canopy.
Ballpark magic: Infield materializes (click to enlarge)
Purple flowers above Second Avenue
Clemson Memorial Stadium
One more exterior view shows that, while the original look was attractive in a way, it seems to be a variation on the look of the Washington ballpark (albeit with a much more coherent collection of elements). What's remarkable is that the design team has refined the concept amazingly well, improving it immeasurably. What we're actually getting is clearly descended from this, but it's in a whole different league:
Here is the most recent outfield configuration, captured from the animation video. We probably shouldn't make too much of the logos seen on the scoreboard: Best Buy, Dairy Queen, Target, Pepsi, Dodge and Qwest...
Gate 29 Carew
The entrance from the service level corridor. (You have to pass the Twins clubhouse door to get there.)
Remember the pitch heard throughout Twins Territory? What an amazing day that was, April 12, 2010. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
Special guests in the trees!
July 7, 1966 (Click to see the entire scorecard with ads)
Another B ramp glimpse (don't loiter here!)
Branding on the plaza
The first completed mural
The walkway under construction in the parking lot just outside the loading dock.
Ketchup, mustard, relish, mustard, ketchup
The Northstar station.
Dugout Box and Champion's Club sections are sequestered by separate moats
The glare problem.
The entrance at Gate 3.
The Pohlads were loose. A-Rod looked, um, you decide.
A view straight on of the Pro Shop area and ticket windows (just barely visible). The piers you see beneath the plaza are already almost completed (see final photo).
JohnW provides this shot of a construction barricade on First Avenue
Carew atrium menu part 1
The reverse angle shows that the signage will only partially obscure views from the top of the ramp. The wall is pretty high up there, so you'll need something to stand on, but it appears that this is one of the so-called "knotholes".