Who's Got the Details?
The Ballpark Authority is Set, But It's Missing Something Big
June 29, 2006 9:58 PM
Thanks for stopping by today. There is no shortage of things to write about, just something of a shortage of time in my schedule to do it. I also prefer to really think about topics rather than just tossing off a few words about something random. I hope you find something interesting here, and can stop back every few days to hear some new thoughts, and add your own.
Speaking of adding your own, it's been reported that the Twins web site only allows 250 characters for you to submit ideas. I haven't checked this but if it's true, that's not enough!
I've added a page strictly for your ideas (linked here and in the menu on the right). Make them as elaborate as you want. There's no limit on space. After we've collected a bunch, I'll forward them to the Twins through whatever channels I can muster.
Impractical, expensive, undeniably cool (Angel Stadium, source LP)
In a minute I'm going to talk about the importance of ballpark details like the one pictured above. First, let me tell you why it's on my mind.
The governor has made his appointments to the Ballpark Authority, and I feel like I should comment. But there's nearly nothing to say about John Wade and Michael Vekich other than what you've already heard. Wade heads the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and Vekich runs Skyline Exhibits (trade show displays) and is a regent of the University of Minnesota. He was also once a Minneapolis City Council member and an interim head of the Minnesota Lottery a few years back.
*Yawn* I'd write more, but getting hold of these people has been impossible. (If you are reading this, Ballpark Authority members, check your email, OK?)
Comerica Park main entrance: Tigers, bats, and much (maybe too much) more (Source: LP)
So the committee which will build the ballpark is now set. I'm trying real hard to withold any judgement about this group until we see some of their first moves. But I'm a natural cynic when it comes to political appointees.
Frankly, I was hoping there would be at least one acknowledged ballpark and/or Minnesota baseball expert. But I miscalculated the job of this body.
This is what passes for imagination at Miller Park -- they didn't even get the shape right! (Source: LP)
It's clear from the pedigrees of these people that they are experts in large development projects, the content of which is rather immaterial.
Maybe this is good. (Maybe not.)
It certainly means that the Twins liaison to this body will be of the utmost importance. The committee members will be very busy negotiating contracts and hiring contractors and such. They will probably have little interest in what the scoreboard looks like, but they'll be very concerned about who will build it and how much they'll get paid.
These are important matters, to be sure. But also important are all the details. And history has shown that these details cannot be left to engineers or people who lack imagination. That's how you get things like concrete donuts, and New Comiskey. That's how you get Metrodomes.
Someone has to be the Imagination of this ballpark, and there's no one fitting that description on the Ballpark Authority. I don't know enough about the Twins organization to know who it might be on the inside, but I certainly hope there is someone with creativity, good taste, restraint, persuasive abililties, and a sense of history.
You see, someone has to become the heart and soul of this place while it is being imagined, designed and built. Someone must oversee things like colors (green is nice, but let's not just copy the other teams, OK?), entrances, historical connections, the shape of the infield cutouts -- even such minutia as the font used on the outfield walls, and the detail on the arm rests and drain covers. Someone must care that the place has a character which matches (even inspires) the team and the franchise. Someone must agonize over the color of the brick or the exact shade of the seats. Someone must imagine all the little touches that fans will only notice on their 20th or 30th trip to the park.
A few details worth noticing (Kauffmann Stadium, New Comiskey, Comerica Park, Source: LP)
It cannot be the architects or engineers, though they'll certainly do the first draft. And now it is clear that it will not be the members of the Ballpark Authority. This is something of a disappointment, but I should have seen it coming. It's going to have to be someone from the team -- and this must be their only job.
This person (or team) will need clout because details add expense. Some will see added expense as the enemy at all times. Others -- who are wiser -- will realize that such small expenses make the place a Place. The best will use imagination and improve the design without adding expense.
Guthrie Theater (original design colors)
Think about the new Guthrie Theater. The exterior facade was originally to be tan in color in order to echo surrounding buildings. But somewhere along the way it was decided that blue, while not moving in unison with the buildings around, harmonizes nicely with them. What's more, midnite blue is truer to the purpose of the building. The color change likely cost nothing more than the original design, but made a huge difference in the finished result.
Now, the Guthrie organization is filled with artists, so it's not really a surprise that they got the artistic decisions right. But what about the Twins organization? What about HOK (the odds-on favorite to get the architectural gig)? What about the Ballpark Authority?
This is why I'm thinking about details now.
I remember when MLB told the Cubs to add lights to Wrigley Field. Though it went against a long tradition, the reasons for doing it were all practical, and the time had come to give up the tradition and make the change.
They could have simply put up vertical light standards spaced evenly around the park. I bet this would have been cheap and fast. This would have been the easy way to do it.
The right way, of course, was something altogether different. Some imagination was required, as well as a little bit more money. The character of the ballpark was at stake and, to their credit, the Cubs organization took the high road. In doing it the right way, they not only solved a problem of practicality, but they actually improved on their already-amazing stadium. The put a crown on top of their jewel.
The lights went on, and it was a Good Thing
The point is that while function is important, it takes just a little bit of extra effort and imagination (and possibly money) to go from functional to beautiful, from practical to magical. The Ballpark Authority and the Twins will need to make sure someone is in charge of making the place everything it can be.
That's something they lack out of the gate, and will need to find very quickly.
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This page was last modified on January 21, 2010.
"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 3046 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow! (I loved this place as a kid.)
A new restaurant going in at Fifth Street and Second Avenue
The Target Center rooftop patio. Hardly glamorous, but a great view of the ballpark.
Even today, throw a fastball to that guy at your own risk.
Ye Olde Tyme Vegetable Cart (and its modern cousin)
A spectacular golden hour
Here's another look at the Oliva gate.
Here's one big problem with a retractable roof: completely terrible seating in left. These scant few seats would have been tucked under the track. No sunshine, no open concourse, it was a terribly kludgy idea. With some hindsight, it's very clear that adding a retractable roof on this small site would have required compromises which would have just been too extensive to tolerate. Without it, the design was free to grow into something much more memorable.
Red is old Yankee Stadium. This diagram comes from FieldOfSchemes.com
This is the trapezoid (for lack of a better name) in right center. Be sure to notice section of seats just below the pavilion and above the fence (which I hadn't noticed before). For those who are interested, what looks like an old-style scoreboard is in fact a high-def video board which will look, at times, like an old-fashioned scoreboard.
The process of building the canopy is really amazing to watch.
Ballpark elevation viewed from the promenade (HERC plant) side. (Click to enlarge.)
A desolate Marquette Ave
"Hey, Ma, it says here we go in at gate 34. Must be all the way around on the other side!" Seriously, though, this is a really inspired idea.
A little ground's crew action in the first inning the other night.
Gate 29 "Carew" is at right.
Miller Park: Gymnasium with skylight (Source: RP)
I had to hold the camera as far over my head as I could to get this shot, in which the infield is finally visible. It's a spot made for your average Timberwolves player.
Today's match-up (click to enlarge)
What has been actually built so far is only a tiny subset of this vision.
Remember the pitch heard throughout Twins Territory? What an amazing day that was, April 12, 2010. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
Thanks for all the hard work out there, Cold Safety-Line Dudes. (I'm glad that my job does not require safety lines...)
The same section seen from Target Center. Yep, looks like bridge supports.
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
The storage tunnel is barely visible at left behind that guy.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)
The HERC side, viewed from Fifth Street.
This is very early in the day.
Final pieces arrive
Click to enlarge greatly. See yourself?
BPM - Ballpark Magic
BRT - Bus Rapid Transit
DSP - Dave St. Peter
FSE - Full Season Equivalent
FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)
HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)
HPB - Home Plate Box
HRP - Home Run Porch
LC - Legends Club
LRT - Light Rail Transit
MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)
MOA - Mall of America
MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)
NYS - New Yankee Stadium
SRO - Standing Room Only
STH - Season Ticket Holder
TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium
TF - Target Field
Selected Bibliography - Analysis
First Edition (1992)
Second Edition (2006)
Selected Bibliography - Surveys
Second Edition (1987)
Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(2000, large coffee table)
Original edition (2000, round)
Revised edition (2006, round)
(2001, medium coffee table)
(2002, small coffee table)
(2003, medium coffee table)
(2004, very large coffee table)
(2006, very large coffee table)
Combines the previous two titles
(2007, medium coffee table)
Selected Bibliography - Nostalgia
Book and six ballpark miniatures