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 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Here's the field of posts which will support the third base side of the grandstand. Some walls have started to appear about where the Northstar riders will enter the park.
Catwalks provide access to the View Level seats (from the Ballpark Authority July update)
Franchise history before Minnesota. (Click to enlarge.)
Viewed from a different angle, it seems fair to wonder is some of those seats will have slightly obscured views. Yet, if they're cheap, that's not a problem.
Here's another look at the Oliva gate.
Mussina's first pitch. (Playing 3rd: Not A-Rod)
From the best seat in the house (Section 8, Row A), the right field corner is blocked. (No one may care. Fine with me. People should know.)
Very interesting detail starting to appear here.
Don Swanson, left, in-coming commander of the Richfield American Legion, and Joe Kennedy, right, out-going commander, are pictured with the Legion's new flag pole, which once stood at old Metropolitan Stadium. (Click to enlarge.)
Not sure what those supports are for -- probably stadia.
This guy at the Puckett atrium chef stand caught me taking the picture and said I should stop back later because he was "just getting started." I still don't know what he meant.
That is pretty close... (Grandstand)
The rendering which excited a fan base! (Inset is an enlargement of the pictured neon sculpture.)
Usher Anna hands out Homer Hankies
This is the Metropolitan Club as viewed from the future Ballpark Authority office space.
The first passengers are about to arrive, but the switch is set for the wrong track (those guys walked all the way out to correct it)
This looks south and shows how the Northstar tracks are sheltered by the promenade above. This is the side which faces the HERC plant.
Lots of speakers, but in some places, no sound.
Fencing is going up all along the plaza
The media had some beautiful foliage to use as a background.
Inside the Metropolitan Club. Classic photo of a youthful Bob Casey at far right. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
Freight trains run in very close proximity (Jerry Bell was standing at my left elbow when I took this picture)
If you want, you can ask those folks how the game is going -- and even get a little bit of info from the big screen (Grandstand)
The equivalent spot on the model.
Suite level view
Two signs visible from beyond the confines of the ballpark.
The plaza as seen from the B ramp.
The canopy as viewed through the outfield stands. The lighting approach, despite what you may have heard, is actually very traditional.
A Hrbek tribute wall marks the end of the Carew side of the club