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 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Walkway sneak peek
The 1963 team won 91 games! (Click to enlarge and see the names)
T is for Twins
Gate 6 Oliva, with the 573 Club looming large over it (I wonder how Tony feels about that)
Replays on the out-of-town scoreboard!
Looking up Sixth Street, now barricaded for plaza extension.
That's Noah and my brother, Chris, checking out the Loge Box amenities
Here's a closer look at the bullpen area. It's hard to tell for sure, but I think there is still an opening to the concourse right above.
The bridge is Seventh Street.
Double plays will be turned here.
Stay warm while buying tickets.
Two concepts here remain in the final design. First is the oddly-shaped pavilion in center. Second is the section just above the right field fence. In the current design this section will hang over the field by a few feet. The original doesn't do that, but you can see that the concept goes way back in the planning.
An arch under construction.
Click to see the whole, beautiful image. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
Doors directly to the concourse, and a view of the stands beyond
Look at all that blank space. Canvas! (What should go on those walls? A giant schedule perhaps?)
It's pretty easy to see right into the Twins dugout!
Here you can see the real beauty of the Seventh Street side, and get a solid sense of why the overall design really works. The building's purpose is clearly visible, there are numerous connections from inside to outside, scale is nicely mitigated, the stone is attractively used, materials are pleasantly mixed and truly complementary. It's just a winner in so many ways.
Click on this photo to see what it looked like on this spot 101 years ago (I'm not kidding)
The steel cage expands.
Sunday afternoon, WFTC-HD 720P
Storage tracks in the foreground.
Just lighted panels... *sigh*
Though there's nothing there now, you have to believe they'll find a way to add a party deck up there at some point.
Looking down what was Third Avenue, and will be a freeway entrance ramp beneath the outfield stands.
Champion's Club details (click to enlarge)
Stairs wrap around the skyway escape tower. A very nice finishing touch.
I could gaze at this streetscape all day. It isn't perfect, but as a model for Minneapolis, I love it. (Except the Biff, of course. Click to enlarge.)