Here's something you probably never thought of in relation to ballpark design: Where should the camera wells go?
It came to me this afternoon as I watched Kyle Lohse give up six quick runs to the Cubs in St. Louis. I started to notice a whole bunch of different camera angles, and some very creative camera placement. In fact, I couldn't remember ever seeing a view from center field quite like the one coming from the new Busch Stadium.
As an aside, has any new ballpark opening been as underplayed as New Busch? It flew under the radar all during the political process, was constructed in the shadow of its predecessor with barely a whisper of its presence, then kind of snuck open at the beginning of the 2006 season (during which the Cards became unlikely world champs). I remember more about the destruction of the Old Busch than I do about the first few days of New Busch.
Despite generally favorable reviews, and what I'm about to say about a certain design aspect, the ballpark is really quite boring and nondescript on the TV screen. It's a shame.
But they clearly spent some time thinking about ways to improve the TV coverage. And I thought it was a marked improvement over what we typically see. I could not quite figure out exactly how many cameras there were, but I did notice that...
1. The center field camera is only a whisker off center toward left -- unlike most such cameras in the MLB.
2. The dugout cameras are on the inside (between the dugout and the plate) rather than the more typical outside placement.
3. Sweeping panoramas were almost nonexistent. If there's a camera up by the broadcast booth, I don't think I ever saw it used.
For reference, here are a few essentially random center field shots from other parks in today's games. Of these, only Fenway has a similar orientation. (The red lines just highlight the path from the rubber to the plate.)
You can see that the farther the camera is toward left field, the greater the angle. And the lower the camera, the less visible space between the pitcher and hitter. Getting the camera up and close to straight-on yields a much taller, clearer and more useful view.
The key thing to realize is that Fenway and Yankee Stadium have been retrofitted for television, while all the rest were built during the TV era. This means that conscious decisions were made in most cases about where the camera should go (rather than, say, being stuck with a bad spot because there was no alternative).
There is little doubt that conscious choices have already been made by the Twins, and there's no way to know yet which view they prefer. But, for my money, the closer you get to straight on, the better. As fans, we all watch many more games on TV than in person, so the placement of this particular camera is pretty important to the viewing experience.
In the case of the Cubs-Cards game today, I found it much easier to tell just where the catcher was setting up, and could see the strike zone much more clearly. If Lohse had ever successfully hit the black, it would have been easy to pick up. And when Yadier Molina actually set up just about as far inside on a hitter as you can get, I could tell that he was a good foot off the plate. This seems to have some value when watching a game.
An added benefit for the team -- but not necessarily for the viewer -- is that they can sell advertising on both sides of the plate.
Maybe I'm in the minority here in preferring the straight-on view. Does anyone else have a preference?
Sixth Street Connection
In discussion over the last few days, much has been speculated about the connection of the plaza to Sixth Street North (the street that runs between Target Center and Butler Square).
Dan Kenney at the Ballpark Authority was kind enough to provide me with the most recent site plan, and this comment:
The ped bridge will extend over Second Avenue, and then split in two directions. In the current plan, the portion heading up 6th Street will extend just beyond Target Center's loading dock door, and a stairway will bring pedestrians down to the existing sidewalk. This is the plan that was approved in late February and is funded to be built.
What we are working on right now is finding a way to delete that stairway and then fund the extension of the bridge along the side of Target Center, so the plaza and the existing sidewalk at the corner of 6th Street and 1st Avenue at are the same elevation.
Just how important is this connection?
Well, I spent a little bit of time in the neighborhood on Friday, and noticed that pretty much all of the life is along either Washington Avenue or First Avenue -- a minimum of two full blocks from the nearest ballpark gate. The connection to Sixth Street (and Fifth, although this one is complicated by the light rail tracks) will determine how people interact with the restaurants and bars which are closest to the park.
Will people arrive early, park in a ramp, walk up to First Ave for dinner, then walk back? Will they saunter up for dinner at the end of a day game or just get back in their cars and go home?
(Of course, there will be restaurants within the ballpark, but it's hard to really count them toward the street life of the place.)
If they get the connection to Sixth Street right, we may be able to forgive the fact that the ballpark is surrounded by parking, industrial yuk, and empty space.
I ran across this very fine piece on the start of ground-breaking ceremonies for stations along the Northstar line.
Sure would be nice if the Strib were covering this type of thing...
"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 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Looking up toward Sixth Street.
The Puckett atrium fireplace is just barely visible at the far left.
The equivalent spot on the model.
The Northstar station at night
A view straight on of the Pro Shop area and ticket windows (just barely visible). The piers you see beneath the plaza are already almost completed (see final photo).
The glare problem.
These stairs will go up to the centerfield pavilion.
World Series trophies on display at left
This view is from the roof of a warehouse which stood where the A ramp is today. The HERC is now located where the tracks turned north (toward the top).
Many people will approace the park from this direction and it's a pretty great first glimpse. It features all the design elements in modestly condensed form, and still manages to look like a ballpark (instead of something else).
Doors directly to the concourse, and a view of the stands beyond
A slightly different elevation drawing, again viewed from Fifth Street, with some labels. (Click to enlarge.)
Looking back toward the ballpark from Third Avenue and Fifth Street. Again, the track configuration is now clearly visible.
Reverse view, now looking down Sixth toward the park. The Met Stadium flag pole will be right there!
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.)
I took this picture from the Overlook at great personal risk, because everything Thome was hitting was landing out that direction.
Sharing and Caring Hands, as viewed from the ballpark site about a block away. Note transaction in progress in the shadows.
A trailer village has sprung up to the south.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)
The east wall of the building looks like it will be the first part completed. These are probably supports for the plaza, and they hug the very edge of the site.
Click to see the full-size image.
Two concepts here remain in the final design. First is the oddly-shaped pavilion in center. Second is the section just above the right field fence. In the current design this section will hang over the field by a few feet. The original doesn't do that, but you can see that the concept goes way back in the planning.
A sign that your mall is all but dead: roped off escalators. (This is at about 4:00 PM on a weekday.)
More flowers, more pennants.
Limestone still dominates the Seventh Street walkway from a pedestrian point of view. But brick take over as you move upward -- a concession to cost, no doubt.
Wind veil install from across Seventh
From about two blocks away you can finally get an idea of what it looks like. Just to my left (but out of view) was a valet parking stand where a limo was idling.