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
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.
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.
"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.
Inside the Metropolitan Club. Classic photo of a youthful Bob Casey at far right. (Photo by Tyler Wycoff)
A detail from the above image shows that the section signage is now in place
The glare problem.
The bridge is Seventh Street.
I'm not sure why there's a wreath on Gate 3. (I quickly checked the headlines for any dreaded Killebrew news. Whew.) It looks to be in celebration, maybe of the move.
We'll be packed into the first five rows of section 136. Hey, Wilson! I'm bringing my glove!
This is amazingly close to completed. It's a short tunnel entrance ramp to 394 underneath the outfield stands.
He'll always be a fan favorite, but did you know that he's making $18.5 million this year? The Twins' entire outfield today, combined, makes $7.45 million.
An ice cream salad cone -- er, Walk-a-Taco
A few weeks ago there were sand volleyball courts here. When the park opens, this will be surface parking. Maybe one day there will be something more interesting built on top of that parking...
Signature elements. (And they wonder why we think the real trees look so small...)
Looking down what was Third Avenue, and will be a freeway entrance ramp beneath the outfield stands.
The visitor's clubhouse at Target Field. (Photo by Javen Swanson)
Nathan greeting the other pitchers on the all-Metrodome team (October 4, 2009)
Three weeks ago this was a patch of scruffy trees. Now it's a patio. In case you were wondering, that's where I've been...
The entrance at Gate 3.
If you are into shade, there are lots of opportunities. This is from the last row in section 108 -- scoreboard not blocked in the least.
Window area sketched by the limestone
Winter approaches. But one day baseballs will fly where now there are cranes.
Ballpark elevation viewed from the promenade (HERC plant) side. (Click to enlarge.)
Looking back toward the ballpark from Third Avenue and Fifth Street. Again, the track configuration is now clearly visible.
The Pantheon (with inset of the magic eye)
Close-up on the diagram of the Club Level with finishing materials (click to enlarge)
We took refuge for a time in the Twins Pub where you can drink a beer (or just hang out) and listen to some ballpark tunes. The organ is decorated with a TC (of course) and what looked like drawings which Sue has received from kids.
Staircase entrance. You cannot miss them.
Mound from the other side
This will be a great sight on game nights.
The Puckett Atrium
CBP: retro in facade only
Here's a first view of the surprisingly spacious walkway on Fifth between the ballpark and the LRT platform.