It's a little hard to believe that a single state can house two of the worst parks in baseball.
It had been a while since I watched a game which originated in Dolphin Stadium, and I took the opportunity this afternoon to read up about it in the fabulous Complete Guide to Big League Ballparks from the good folks over at Ballpark Digest. About the time I finished the article, Dicknbert were talking about how the equivalent here would be the Twins playing in a park called Viking Stadium.
The indignity of the naming aside, it sounds like a truly terrible place to see big league baseball. Put that together with the Tropicana Concrete Catwalk Palace, and you have a lot of games played under awful fan conditions. Setting the level of play aside for a moment, is it any wonder that neither of these teams has been able to build much of a fan base?
Maybe the Metrodome's claim on the title "worst ballpark ever" is more slippery than I've always thought.
I had a chance this week to see some revised renderings of the Twins ballpark. These are not publicly available yet, but they do show that the design is still undergoing deep review within the Twins organization, and they are not above making changes even at this relatively late date.
The primary change was the significant shrinkage of the restaurant out in center field. It looked not quite half the size as in the familiar drawing. In it's place was an expansion of the outfield seats which has previously been mentioned here. that, in turn, corrected one of my growing concerns about the angle of the seats in that left field pavilion. There is now a slight bend extending up from where the fence bends, allowing all those seats to face the infield directly.
In addition, a party deck has appeared on top of the building at the left field corner. This should please MOJO!
Complications have ensued with the smallish site behind the Target Center parking ramps. Twins owner Carl Pohlad's contribution in the original deal was advertised as $130 million, but team officials have accepted it will be closer to $200 million by the time the slow-moving outdoor ballpark opens in April 2010.
Hennepin County's investment is capped at $350 million, so the Pohlad family figures to wind up with roughly 35 percent of the tab.
He says this like it's a bad thing! Sounds like the Pohlads are interested in seeing the site work and are willing to commit with their wallets. What could be wrong with that?
Of course, he's writing in the context of simmering negotiations to replace the Dome with a new Vikings stadium. The total dollars maybe should make people nervous, but all of the numbers I've heard the Vikings use seem somehow more realistic than anything the Twins ever used. Wilf doesn't seem like a scammer to me. He seems like someone who it's safe to do a deal with. Maybe that's why Pogemiller (and the Legislature as a whole) could be a little more receptive to what he has to say.
I'm also a bit baffled by the characterization of the project as "slow-moving." In addition to new renderings, I looked at some time-lines this week which show everything as almost exactly on schedule.
What some people, including Reusse, seem to overlook is that there is a huge amount of boring legal work which must be accomplished before any earth can be moved. Just think about what it takes to convince a railroad that they need to move their railroad tracks! I was impressed to learn that all of the major documents necessary to begin this project have been completed and signed. That this got done in less than 12 months is something of a minor miracle given the complexity of the site.
It would be instructive to compare our site to those of, say, the Yankees, Mets, and Nats. (I'll get right on it.)
About Those Complications...
Mike Kaszuba has a piece in today's Strib which touches base with Bruce Lambrecht on the eve of the hearings which will determine the value of the ballpark land.
The final value will be interesting in that it will settle once and for all who was being realistic and who was being grabby. I'll be very disappointed if the value comes in exactly halfway between the county's offer ($13.35 million) and the landowners' request (which we still don't know, but is said to be up to six times that much).
Let's give credit to Lambrecht for at least one thing: his idea to put a ballpark on this land was inspired. It will likely be a home run for everybody involved. I remember those early drawings (mentioned in Kaszuba's article) and how they made the whole thing seem not just plausible, but exciting. From the very first time I heard this idea, the whole thing seemed like something which was probably too good to ever happen. There had to be a catch.
An early concept drawing for the site
Condemnation may have eliminated one of those catches, and there are a few more hovering out there which will have to be addressed. But I'm willing to give Lambrecht credit for the initial vision -- even if he had something to gain.
You've probably read that the Vikings bought up a bunch of land around the Metrodome, and even managed to get an option on the one missing piece (the Strib's main headquarters site). While this has no real impact on the Twins, it highlights something often overlooked when talking about stadiums.
Wilf is a developer, and he knows a thing or two about land values. He was smart enough to move at a moment when the seller, the Star Tribune, was in deep need of some fast cash. Does it matter to him whether a new stadium gets built near there?
On one level, it does not. The land is pretty valuable with or without a new stadium. Of course it's probably worth more in the long run if he gets his retractable roof. And the purchase sends a pretty clear message to the Legislature about his commitment level to making something work.
As far as I'm concerned, this land deal is a masterstroke. And I hope he gets what he wants because it will be very good for that still-bleak end of downtown.
About That Surface Parking
I'm sure you've read here or elsewhere about the surface parking lot to be built to the southwest of the new ballpark. One of the early options discussed was to build a parking ramp at that location, with the idea that something could be built above that ramp at a later date.
But everyone involved was mindful of that little parking ramp next to the LRT station at the Metrodome. It, too, was built with the idea that something could later be built on top of it. But that is easier said than done. It's almost impossible to know how to build a foundation unless you know what kind of building is going to go on top of it...
Instead, the Twins will build surface parking, and have struck a deal with MnDOT to have a special area of the "A" ramp set aside for any additional parking they need. Then, in exchange for covering the potential increased cost of land acquisition, the team obtained the right (for 15 years) to develop above that triangular piece of land.
Long-term, this could be very good for the team and the ballpark, and it sounds like a very clever way to have resolved the land value stand-off.
Thank you to everyone who extended their sympathies in the past week. I'm not sure how she would have felt about being memorialized here -- my grandma was never overly sentimental. But your kind words and stories have been appreciated.
"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 3019 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Yep, that's real grass down there, son.
The Fifth Street side is pretty busy. There's a small street entrance to the B ramp, then ticket booths and an entrance gate, a rare exterior section not covered in limestone, the wooden screen covering the circulation ramps, the administration building, and finally (just out of view) the interface with Northstar. All of that sits behind the LRT action. How pedestrians will interact with this side of the park is a great mystery to me. You know that Metro Transit won't be letting them cross the tracks anywhere but at either end of the block...
Center field seating
Circulation ramps: Wrigley (classic, integrated) and Kauffman (modern, external)
Miller Park: Gymnasium with skylight (Source: RP)
Grid for the ironwood louvres is in place
This is where chain link is being replaced with fencing which matches the plaza
This was on BPM night. Nice neon, but I'm still waiting to see the homer show.
Click to enlarge. (Photo by Jared Wieseler)
Photo by Jared Wieseler
Section 101, Row 34
Lower deck view of the out-of-town scoreboard.
Section 125, Row 1
Work has begun on the plaza, and the activity has started to impact I-394 traffic.
Detail of view to the northeast (Source: LP)
Looking up toward Sixth Street.
Wrigley Field viewed while approaching on foot from the northwest
Open house skeptics
Detroit got this part right!
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.)
A few details worth noticing (Kauffmann Stadium, New Comiskey, Comerica Park, Source: LP)
Work on one of the side panels
You can finally see how the plaza will meet the street on the north side of this emergency exit tower (which will be converted to a regular entrance/exit)
Reasonable (if not overly generous) leg room
Click to see the full-size image.
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...
This would have been the HERC side, though it's unclear just how far over the plant the retracted roof would have gone. My fear was always that they would have to shorten the track and more of the roof would have stayed over the ballpark. The only good retractable roof is one which disappears when not in use. I don't think they could have realistically created such a thing.
Entrance to the Champions Club
A glimpse of the rather plain west facade (the side which faces the HERC plant).
That's Fifth Street (and a tattooed arm) in the foreground.
The visitor's clubhouse at Target Field. (Photo by Javen Swanson)
This is a slightly blurry view of the pavilion in center. It has a quirky shape, but one which is completely consistent with the overall ballpark design. Nice work there. You can also get a glimpse of the greenery which will rise above the fences.