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So, It Begins

May 8, 2007 12:36 AM

There was no ceremony or speech-making, so you may not have noticed it, but construction on the new Twins ballpark actually began today.

It began this morning when crews permanently closed a portion of Third Avenue North which will be replaced by the main entry plaza and pedestrian bridge. Later, they also closed a lane on North Fifth Street to begin preparing the bridge to be substantially rebuilt. Some of this work was already underway when I last visited the site a couple of months ago, but back then it was being done on spec. Now, it's officially a part of ballpark-building.

That makes this a pretty big day, though it didn't really seem like one. Let me share three random thoughts for the occasion.

Remembering Ebbets Field

Ebbets Field wrecking ball

I'm reading a book called The Greatest Ballpark Ever by Bob McGee. His first chapter recounts the day that demolition began on the great old park. Former players and former fans were on hand, the Star Spangled Banner was sung, a somber ceremony took place and photos were taken.

Then a wrecking ball, grotesquely painted to look like a baseball, smashed into the roof of the visitor's dugout (watch it here). It was a very sad day for a lot of people.

Fans develop deep connections to the place where their team plays. It happens across sports, but it's somehow deepest in baseball. The game is about place, after all. It's about leaving home on a journey and trying to find your way back home. It's hero mythology come to life. That's just one of the reasons that baseball is the greatest game. It's about -- no, it is the human experience.

Over years, the confines of the baseball stadium become the walls of your home. They are safe, familiar. Fans start and end many journeys there. There are happy times and sad times. You leave, but you always find your way back. The walls change, of course. They get a new coat of paint now and then, maybe a new picture or bulletin board gets hung. But they remain home.

The Nature of Home

My parents are moving in a couple of months. Their condo is up for sale (it's lovely), and they are moving back to a neighborhood they love.

Whenever they move, I think again about how history wants to attach itself to places, but it never quite works. I think about our old family homestead up in Princeton, where no one from our family has lived for 20 years. I think about how no one there will ever know the story of how Chris and I broke the stairway doorknob during a fight and had to work together to get it open again. Though they may stand on the same spot, no one else knows about how I got hit in the eye with a batted ball right there. No one ever will. Someone may dig up the bones, but no one will ever know the names of those cats (Rex and Rascal) and parakeets (Perky, all of them). And no one knows that my grandmother's wedding ring is still there, somewhere in that dirt.

I think about my own 1907 house and the very large family (Frank and Augusta Carlbom and their seven children), now all gone, who called it home for some 70 years. None of their history seems to be found in our walls, though it feels like it should be there.

If the ballpark is home, then the fans are family with the team. The stories go well beyond what happened on the field. The people who went out to Ebbets Field on that dreary day knew it all too well. They knew they were losing the place where Jackie Robinson made history, but they also were losing the place where history beyond baseball was spun into the Brooklyn DNA across generations.

Of course, losing the ballpark was an echo of the real loss. It was the owner, not the team or the park, which betrayed the family.

Metrodome conversion

The Metrodome is converted to its football configuration after the Twins game on August 29, 2002

I remember standing in the Metrodome on the day before the labor dispute was settled in August 2002. There was this sense in the air that the Twins -- this 100-year-old franchise, founding member of the American League -- might never play again. If there had been a strike, who's to say that the Twins wouldn't have been contracted as part of the settlement? I stood there thinking about Calvin Griffith and Carl Pohlad, Kent Hrbek and Herb Carneal, and all the other people who had been part of this particular family -- even Walter Johnson.

That was the darkest day I've ever known as a Twins fan. I stood at the upper deck railing for a long time after the game and watched as crews converted the Dome into its football configuration. I cursed the place on my way out. It felt like the concrete oval, which came in on time and under budget, was about to kill my team, and take with it the memories of this gigantic family. Though others were certainly complicit, what hurt most was that the home had betrayed the family.

Places, Past and Future

If you go out to the Mall of America, you can stand right where Harmon Killebrew hit a whole bunch of home runs. You can occupy the space that Rod Carew stole on multiple occasions. You can inhabit a little piece of the earth that teams fought over 81 times a year (and more) for over 20 years. More magical things happened on that spot than can be recounted here.

What's interesting to me is that space doesn't appear or disappear. People say, "I wish I could knock out a wall and have a little more space in here." But new walls simply enclose space which already existed. Tearing down walls just exposes space which was previously enclosed. That's the purpose of architecture: to enclose space for people to use. The space doesn't change, just the enclosure. But the enclosure, in turn, changes the people it encloses.

When all is said and done, memories stick to the people, not the places. And the success of the place will be measured by the memories it allows us to create and hold. That's the real ballpark magic.

I've walked the Rapid Park lot many times, and I've tried to discern from the site plans where home plate might be. It's not easy, and probably won't be determined officially for some time. But I do this to celebrate in a very small way the memories which are to come.

Right now, you can occupy space which will be fought over 81 times a year (or more) by the best players in the game. One day, a World Series will be played there. One day a no-hitter will be thrown right there! More magical things will happen there than we can imagine right now. But we will remember them as they happened in that place.

So, if you get a chance, go down there and occupy the space -- just so you can say that you did. In the long lens of time, that space, though as yet unenclosed, is already part of the game.

Comments


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That was wonderful. Thanks for putting into words sentiments that I think many share. I'm going to ride my bike to the Rapid Park site and just root around.

It's funny I was just today having lunch in what was once the lower bowl of the old Memorial Stadium and some of these same thoughts came to mind.

Posted on May 8, 2007 at 1:51 PM by Freealonzo Highlight this comment 1

Rick, great post, if you want to stop by this week and get a tour before they start "pulling up asphalt", let me know, you can stand on home plate! Bruce Lambrecht 612-349-2775

Posted on May 8, 2007 at 4:09 PM by Bruce Lambrecht Highlight this comment 2

Duuuuuussssssst in the wind; all we are is duuuuuuuuussssst in the wwiiiiind.

Its that fondness for "space" and romanticizing a "game" thats making the above poster a multi millionaire. Good for him. Sad for you.

Posted on May 8, 2007 at 4:33 PM by STM Highlight this comment 3

I can't wait to see the pictures of the construction.

Wish I was still in the area to see the progress in person but this site definitely helps.

Let's hope this new park gets built on time and built right.

Posted on May 8, 2007 at 6:11 PM by Lafferty Daniel Highlight this comment 4

How is it "sad for him"? Must suck for you to see so many people happy about something you clearly detest. This blog is devoted to the love of the game and the cathedrals it's played in, not your personal gripe with life, and I suggest you get one.

Posted on May 9, 2007 at 6:09 PM by Tim Highlight this comment 5


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 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.


Even today, throw a fastball to that guy at your own risk.



The glass area seen here is one of the warm-up areas.









Fissure dude



A desolate Marquette Ave






It looks like the Target-themed signage has spilled out to the surrounding area (this was taken from the entryway to the B ramp from Third -- the 394 entrance ramp tunnel)



Some of Minneapolis' finest checking out the construction through a spot where a knothole will be one day.






The first completed mural



Another piece of the neighborhood puzzle: the Northstar platform.



Detail showing clubhouse and home dugout (click to see the entire drawing)



Crosswalk taking shape.






I took this picture from the Overlook at great personal risk, because everything Thome was hitting was landing out that direction.



7:42 PM It moves to the left in the image and begins to blossom.












The Puckett Atrium






These outfield stands will likely remain visible to passersby.






Indications that club seating (the wider spaced areas above each dugout) will be a major presence in the lower deck



Legends Club seats in context (above the main concourse, below the suite level)



Notice that the wooden-backed club seats are now covered by a green tarp for protection from the elements.



Tony Oliva, R. T. Rybak and Mike Opat



The lights have covers on the top, presumably to reduce light pollution









The knothole (sans view of anything interesting)






Walkway construction is progressing



The reverse angle shows that the signage will only partially obscure views from the top of the ramp. The wall is pretty high up there, so you'll need something to stand on, but it appears that this is one of the so-called "knotholes".






Such promise. (Click to enlarge.)



Footings for the Seventh Street walkway from the A ramp.






A detailed crowd shot. Click to enlarge greatly.


















A little ground's crew action in the first inning the other night.



Concourse ceilings (from the Ballpark Authority's May update)






Dan Kenney, my tour guide



These are the outside tracks which go under the promenade


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HPB - Home Plate Box

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LC - Legends Club

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MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)

MOA - Mall of America

MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)

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STH - Season Ticket Holder

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