How can I describe the Ballpark Authority? Or maybe it's better to ask, how can I describe the vast gulf between what the Ballpark Authority cares about and what I care about?
Take a look at these two quotes:
"Space-age gadgetry is now the byword in ballpark construction, with fountains, waterfalls, light shows, exploding scoreboards, escalators, posh clubs, and form-fitting chairs now the order of the day. The new parks have, at least in the short run, broadened the base of baseball attendance and brought women and families in record numbers. But we've been down this path before.
"The major attraction is still baseball, and the hard-core baseball fan is still the most important customer. The more things change, the more they seem to remain the same. A fan can see fountains in a city park, light shows on a tote board, and go to a posh club anytime he has the money. But the only place he can see baseball is at the ballpark. The only thing the ballpark can give him that he cannot get anywhere else is baseball."
"This may be the largest real estate transaction the state has ever undertaken."
Steve Cramer, Chair
Ballpark Authority, July 21, 2006
There you have it in a nutshell. I see this project as Shannon and Kalinsky might. The commissioners, of necessity, must see it quite differently.
The Ballpark Authority at work (Source: RP)
I've been to all three of their meetings, read the handouts diligently, studied the resolutions and bylaws, and been completely bored out of my mind most of the time. If it hadn't been for some very nice supporting documents (most of which will appear here in one form or another), this might have been a total waste of my time (something I have very little of, what with numerous CD and DVD projects on my plate and a sweetly persistent toddler tugging on my shirttails for large portions of each day).
But really: Who knew that building a ballpark could be so painfully tedious?
I suppose this is just how government bodies work. It's probably the people who can stand the tedium who end up in that line of work. And it's very clear that the members of the Ballpark Authority are very focused people -- people who care about dotting and crossing, as it were.
Touring the Rapid Park site (L-R: Commissioners Wade, Vekich, Sykora, Cramer, and tour guide Chuck Ballentine, source: RP)
What's more, this is probably a Good Thing, because a very reliable inside source told me that these people were appointed to make sure that a ballpark gets built, and nothing else. They were selected because of their skills at making sure nothing -- whether it be political, logistical, or financial -- gets in the way or derails the process at any point. That means they were selected for expertise in documents and contracts, not vision. From what I've seen, they seem very well-suited to their task.
So I can accept this, but I may not be going to too many of their meetings going forward. It looks like the vision thing will be coming from the Twins anyway. By the next meeting, it's expected that the Twins will have presented a letter formally requesting the right to design the park (as originally predicted here, by the way).
That leaves the Ballpark Authority to handle mostly contractual and financial things, while the Twins get to do all the fun stuff.
I'm willing to keep track of some of the boring stuff, but this site will hereby be primarily focused on the fun stuff. So, in order to have made this time at meetings worthwhile, here are a few of the fun things I've learned -- things which either were not public knowledge, or simply have not been widely reported.
1. Rooftop Seating - Preliminary plans call for something of a "wildcat bleachers" approach with warehouses and parking ramps in the area. You may actually be able to buy a seat on top of that ugly municipal parking ramp. It's not Wrigley Field, but it's a great idea.
2. Standing Room - I haven't seen this in any of the public documents before, but the early designs include 1500 standing room only places. Presumably, these will be game day only tickets.
3. 360-Degrees of Views - You can't do this in every park, but you sould be able to: walk all the way around the playing field on the open main concourse, never losing sight of the game. If you've never done this, you're in for a treat.
4. Prevailing Winds - I've mentioned before my minor disappointment that the park orientation allows skyline views for less than half of the seats. A slight change could easily fix this. But the architect working on the early sketches (from HOK, of course) has indicated that the orientation was selected in part to shield the park from the "prevailing winds." What this means in meteorological terms, I do not know. But I'll find out!
5. Wind Protection - The upper deck will feature a back wall, again for wind protection.
6. HERC Energy Uses - You may have heard it mentioned that the nearby garbage burner may be able to provide steam heat to the park. This is only partly true. The plant generates enough electricity to power 25,000 homes, and does have some excess heat. But the primary use for this steam may end up being to keep the playing surface warm and free of frost and snow in April and October. Chilled water from the plant may also be used for air conditioning in the suites, restaurants, and offices.
7. Concourse Stays Open - I don't think this is a unique feature, but the main concourse will remain open at all times, whether there is a game or not. It will be a place for commuters to stop and buy a newspaper or coffee (like a mini-mall, I suppose) at any time that trains are running.
Detail of the train tunnels (click to view the entire drawing)
8. Speaking of Trains - There will be two tunnels built beneath the stands, each of which will enclose two sets of railroad tracks. The outer tunnel will contain the BNSF freight tracks which are also going to be used by the Northstar commuter line (and perhaps other similar lines). The other tunnel is being included with an eye toward future rail expansion in the form of either a new light rail line, or a "bullet train" running from the Twin Cities to Chicago. In fact, plans have already been drawn up for a platform capable of handling such a high speed line which would not be built before 2040 or 2050. Between the two tunnels and surrounding them will be special "crash walls."
9. Affordable Tickets - The Twins, as part of their financial contribution to construction, have made some sort of commitment with regard to keeping affordable tickets available. What this means exactly is not specified, but it's an important principle. Baseball games should not be only for the wealthy,
10. Dugout Switch - The preliminary drawings all have the Twins switching back to the first base dugout. For those too young to remember, this is how it was back at Met Stadium.
Detail showing clubhouse and home dugout (click to see the entire drawing)
Finally, this interesting concept drawing was included with today's handouts. It was described as just some doodling done by the architect, but it gives an idea of what the pedestrian bridge over 394 may look like. (The inset shows the parking ramp from about the same angle as the drawing.)
An early concept for the pedestrial bridge. (Source: Ballpark Authority, RP)
You can see that there are some very dramatic possibilities, given that they are already considering using suspension cables. This would be the perfect place to situate the two gigantic Twins statues...
Special Request: I will be out of town during the week of the three public hearings planned by Hennepin County. They will be held Tuesday, August 22, 5-7 PM (Hennepin County Government Center), Wednesday, August 23, 6-8 PM (Bloomington Civic Plaza), and Thursday, August 24, 6-8 PM (Maple Grove Government Center). If you plan to go to any of these, please drop me a line. I'd love to have some first-hand accounts.
Also, if you'd like to write for this site, drop me a sample entry at the same email.
Thanks for stopping by today. Updates will be coming as often as time allows!
"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 3004 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
This is a background image extracted from one of the blueprint pages. It's essentially a schematic of the park (Terrace Level). In it you can see the shape of the various seating areas (to a certain extent).
The main ticketing area beneath the restaurant.
Rally Hanky (2002 ALCS)
Yes, son, Memorial Stadium used to be right there, just beyond those gates.
This view clearly shows the curve in the left field stands and the relationship of the first row with the playing field (no overhang to speak of in left).
Off-topic, but this gigantic, cool, retro sign is just across the street from S&CH. Why? I don't know. Might look nice on top of one of those municipal parking ramps...
Hubert's remains the only sports bar within site of the Dome after 28 years of its existence. It's a cautionary tale.
(Click to enlarge greatly)
Memorabilia on display in the Metropolitan Club
The scoreboard also towers over the LRT tracks, which now are functional (though not open) all the way to the park -- and beyond!
Lots of speakers, but in some places, no sound.
The flowers don't have quite the fullness depicted in the original sketches (where they were positively overflowing), but they are quite lovely -- a great, subtle touch. And that's probably a very challenging place to grow anything.
Items promoting the Twins 2014 All-Star Game bid. I got to bring one of these buckets home, and Noah got his first-ever taste of Cracker Jacks.
I would put on this face.
Did I mention that the cheerleaders looked pretty sharp?
Griffith Stadium (notch visible in lower photo at far left)
Knothole non-view #2
10 years ago, Bruce Lambrecht looked at this land and thought, "Why NOT a ballpark here?" It took a long time before anybody else saw the same potential.
Gate 3 ticket window
A view into the park down Sixth Street from just beyond Hennepin. Note that one side of the street contains century-old, classic buildings -- structures which are likely to last another century or more. The other side, not so much. (Click the image to see what it looked like from exactly the same spot 97 years ago.)
From the ground beneath the troubled skyway.
Plaza extension reaches toward First Avenue
8:02 PM It's at peak, affecting mostly the upper deck.
Looking up Seventh Street (click to see what it looked like from the same spot in 1950)
Viewed from an A ramp elevator lobby.
Peering through Gate 29 -- lots to see
8:12 PM It is now in the area where, if it gets down far enough, it will shine into the eyes of a right-handed hitter.
No admittance -- yet! Note that you can see the seating bolts which are in place already.
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.