This is the entrance behind home plate (not visible in the renderings which have been released). It shows that the upper deck is set back from the facade -- a very good thing if it remains in the final design.
The new photos I took of the site today don't show very much. There has been some digging and some hauling. Test holes have been dug to check for high levels of mercury. The sand volleyball courts are gone (but their light poles remain). It looks like parking has now been banished all the way to Fifth Street.
The dirt phase is going to last a while. Sometime in August they are supposed to start driving piles. As those piles go in, we will start to see the shape of the park. But for most of the summer, we'll be looking at not much more than dirt.
Unless, that is, you head on up to the TCF atrium (located on Marquette Avenue between Eighth and Ninth). There you will find a display of some urban planning concepts, including the original concept model for the ballpark. I'm sure that the whole display is quite interesting, but I could only find a 15-minute parking meter and had to focus my attention solely on the ballpark displays.
(An aside: Parking meters in downtown Minneapolis are very maddening. Most have either a 15-minute limit or a two-hour limit, something I simply cannot comprehend. You can't do anything in 15 minutes, and if you're going to be somewhere for two hours, you should find a parking ramp. Parking meters are for short term parking and if I ran the city every single meter in downtown would have a 30-minute limit. No exceptions. Red bags over meters would be banished, as would curb-side commercial loading zones for any building which has its own loading dock -- as almost every major building does. OK, end of mini-rant.)
Photographs of this concept model have been seen before in the Star Tribune and right here. And it does not accurately represent the design as it stands now. But it gives the general idea, and seeing it does answer some questions. Here are some photos I took in my mad dash this afternoon.
An overview of the model display.
This shows the area where the Northstar platform connects with the ballpark (that translucent oval). Above that is the area which will house the Twins operations offices.
A glimpse of the rather plain west facade (the side which faces the HERC plant).
The heretofore unseen north facade (click to enlarge). Does it look like a ballpark? And what's with the bamboo?
Included in the display is one additional rendering of the park as viewed from the north across Fifth Street. The light rail station is visible, as is some additional detail for the facade. (I suspect that this drawing was withheld because it shows Fifth Street as a one-way, which it isn't now, and apparently will not be.)
But when I look at this new drawing, it still seems to be missing some sort of signature architectural element. Is it living in the past to think that ballparks need tall light towers? If not towers for lights, they at least need something which soars up into the sky for dramatic purposes. After all, we go there to watch things fly into the sky and come down again. This building is at least in part about the sky and needs something vertical to make the connection.
Others have encouraged me to give the canopy a chance, and I will. In fact, I think it's a very cool idea, and really looks great. But it's a horizontal barrier between the park and the sky, not a connection to it. I'm not suggesting that they change it, other than to add something tall. Really tall and distinctive. And dramatic. And it doesn't have to be functional.
The glass-enclosed lobby areas (I'm not sure what else to call them) sure do look dramatic. And I didn't fully understand that they are multi-story. The one in this image is three stories tall. They will be quite impressive. They also make a clever way of connecting the ballpark to its neighborhood. Let's hope there's something interesting out there to look at.
I can't say this is a surprise, nor do I feel like there's anything inappropriate about it. It's an amazing building inside (except the elevators can be maddeningly slow). It seems only natural that more office space will be needed, and that's the perfect place to put it.
My guess is that the upper floors may get glimpses of the field, but probably not the whole thing. Still, a party deck on top of the building would be very cool.
Picking on Nick
The green is a composite of the topmost seating areas in the new ballpark. The gray is a scale diagram of the Metrodome.
In the comments for my previous post, someone mentioned a recent column by Nick Coleman in the Strib. While I am not qualified to comment on Coleman's cleansing capabilities or overall freshness, it seemed important to check into one of his criticisms of the ballpark project. Namely, he wasn't sure that the cheap seats in the new park would be any better than the cheap seats in the Metrodome.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it looks like almost every seat will be better in the new park than in the Dome, though it's unlikely any seat will be as cheap as the worst seats in the Dome. Is the net an improvement? Probably, but we don't quite have enough information to know for sure.
To check this, I superimposed a scale drawing of the Metrodome over the scale drawings of the new park. Then, with the help of Google Earth, I did a little measuring. Unfortunately, I can't find the height measurements for the Dome (though I was able to estimate heights for the new park), so all of the measurements which follow are just horizontal distances.
In the Dome, the worst seat (somewhere in section 204 -- I'm pretty sure it's the seat I was in for the 2004 playoffs) is 566 feet from home plate. In the new park, the most distant seat in the upper deck in left field will be 447 feet from the plate -- an improvement of 119 feet. You may remember that, back at Met Stadium, Harmon Killebrew once hit a home run that went 530 feet. In the new park, that would easily clear the upper deck in left.
Behind the plate, at the Dome the last row is 204 feet from the plate, while the new park is 212 feet. That is an increase of a mere eight feet, though the vertical element is still to be calculated.
I guess my point is that it's clear that there probably won't be any really bad seats in the new park. In fact, it's hard to find any section that doesn't look like a great place from which to see a game. That's a testament to the size of the site, but also the creativity of the architectural team.
On this point, I think Coleman got it wrong.
For this little project and some of my other research, I've created a bunch of graphic overlays in Google Earth, mostly fitting the scale drawings onto the site. If I get time, I'll post all of these so you can do some checking for yourself.
Another subject which has come up in the comments is about the quality of the ballpark location now that we've had a year to live with it. I've been working on a long post on this matter (hence a few days of silence), which I hope to post early next week.
"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.
Ready for action.
Staging for the next section (Home Plate Box)
I don't think this will remain a knothole, but the view is pretty cool.
Dave St. Peter introducing the first physical models of the ballpark in June 2007
Such promise. (Click to enlarge.)
Night (about the 7th inning)
Nearby, workers are finishing a support column. The guy at the bottom is using some sort of personal dirt mover (inset). Very cool.
For reference, here's that spot on the model.
Trees also have sprouted near the topiaries
Trains now rumble regularly beneath the promenade.
It's pretty easy to see right into the Twins dugout!
Knothole non-view #2
The outfield stands taking shape.
B ramp at left, ballpark at right (and visible far away through the tiny crack)
OK, it doesn't really look like that at all...
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...
Since pictures of the ballpark are forbidden, perhaps you'll enjoy this shot of the lovely apple tree in my front yard.
The view from the upper concourse.
Today's match-up (click to enlarge)
This is some of the signage in place for concession stands.
Indications that club seating (the wider spaced areas above each dugout) will be a major presence in the lower deck
Lots of people are doing it.
One more exterior view shows that, while the original look was attractive in a way, it seems to be a variation on the look of the Washington ballpark (albeit with a much more coherent collection of elements). What's remarkable is that the design team has refined the concept amazingly well, improving it immeasurably. What we're actually getting is clearly descended from this, but it's in a whole different league:
Look familiar? Unfortunately, just adding little balconies with cool angles will not offset the pervading ugliness.
First Avenue at left, bike parking area at lower right
One of those funny little sections above the entrance stairs