Yes, they took a backhoe and dug a hole in the asphalt today, and thus began construction on the Twins ballpark.
It's not really much of a hole, and it's perfectly square, which seems a little odd since everything must go. But I'm sure there's a purpose.
This area had been specially marked. I'm just guessing, but it may have something to do with concerns about high mercury levels in the soil.
Elsewhere, Third Avenue was permanently closed and demolition of the former Rapid Park entrance was completed. Though some reports have said that removal of Third Avenue will be the first thing, the chain link gate at Seventh Street makes it look more like this will become a route for machinery in and out of the site.
Be sure to take a look at the updated site status page and panorama page. I've added some photos and documented each step of the way so far. I can't predict how often I'll be able to get down there for new pictures, but then again it may be hard to stay away!
Several TV news reports today showed video of dirt being moved, though I'm at a bit of a loss to know just what this was. Some dirt piles have appeared to the north of the Fifth Street bridge. Maybe this is what they were showing. I don't as yet know why these are there.
I did notice a couple of new things while walking around there today. For one, the freeway and side streets (at least during rush hour) are very busy and very noisy. How much of this will filter into the ballpark is hard to say, but not many people are going to want their outdoor baseball experience marred by the constant din of 18-wheelers.
One possibility to avoid the issue altogether would be to completely cover the freeway with the plaza. Perhaps this is an impractical change at this point, but don't be surprised if it comes up a few years down the road. I have to believe the current bridge and plaza are being designed with that possibility in mind. If not, they should be.
Nuts on Clark (a couple blocks north of Wrigley Field)
Walking along Seventh Street with all the traffic feels something like a "take your life in your hands" proposition. The cars move quickly and there are no barriers -- physical or otherwise -- between car and pedestrian. This is a pretty big problem throughout downtown, and certainly around the Metrodome, what with the multi-lane, high-speed, one-way freeways which now dominate.
It's really time for the city to reconsider this model. Some experts think that bringing back two-way traffic and street parking does not increase congestion, and makes a city much more walkable. It is considered a "traffic calming" strategy. Either way, the fact is that traffic has the potential to degrade your experience while walking to the ballpark, just like almost everywhere else in downtown. (It should be noted that the ballpark site plans, a portion of which is seen below, show a row of trees on the plaza side of Seventh which will separate pedestrians on the plaza from the traffic. Great idea, but it may not be enough.)
It doesn't help that your walk will take you mostly past a bunch of gigantic parking structures. Another factor which improves walkability is the presence of interesting or inviting storefronts. The warehouse district has charm, of course, but the actual ballpark site is not really anywhere near most of it. I've said it before, Wrigleyville this ain't.
There is potential, however, and an opportunity for the city to step up with some creativity. Between the sidewalk on Seventh Street and the aforementioned parking ramp is a 50-foot by 200-foot open area which, with some imagination and negotiation, could be converted to game-day retail space. That's really what Seventh Street needs.
I'm thinking of souvenir shops, ice cream stores, hot dog places, etc. If you've ever walked around Wrigleyville, you know that one of its charms is the availability of all sorts of niche stores (and bars, of course). For example, if you've never been to Nuts on Clark, seek it out before a game. You can take your nuts into the bleachers (so to speak), and you won't regret it. (Be sure to buy extra to share with the people you are destined to meet around you.)
Walking around the so-called "Twinsville" neighborhood can be a little depressing at this point. There are a few places to eat, but they look pretty fancy (not really ballpark food). There are a few bars, but not exactly right there. Target Center has been an utter failure at developing an exciting neighborhood.
And, man, is Target Center ugly. It just sits there like a gigantic, fraying ottoman. And its connections to the street are really unfortunate. Its focus seems to be skyway access, and this works for winter sports. But that is a killer in the summer. The Sixth Street facade is especially unfortunate. Architecturally, Target Center just doesn't seem to care about anything beyond its own walls.
The view down Sixth Street toward the ballpark site. A pedestrian bridge will extend this street right into the main entrance of the park. The regrettable facade of Target Center is on the left. Butler Square is on the right. Click on the image to see what it looked like on this very spot about 100 years ago.
Of greater concern may be the proximity of the Sharing and Caring Hands complex to the west. Though they provide an indispensable service to the city's poor and homeless, that comes with some security issues for a building which intends to be open to pedestrian traffic at all times. As much as I hate to say it, I've had to curtail my photography from that corner of the site because it just doesn't feel safe sometimes.
You may remember that it was exactly one year ago that the Legislature passed the bill which approved the ballpark. (This isn't really a coincidence since the Constitution mandates that the session ends on a specific day, and nothing much gets done over there until this set-in-stone deadline approaches.)
By the looks of that hole in the ground you may think that not much has happened in the intervening 365 days, but you would be wrong.
The effort which has taken place outside of the public eye to keep this project on schedule (and to make sure that it actually happens) has been positively herculean. Everyone involved deserves a hearty round of applause for getting to this moment.
"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.
And another angle looking at the overhang area of the right field pavilion. This looks to me like a great area to watch a game.
The storage tunnel is barely visible at left behind that guy.
A final glimpse from the street of stadia installation along the left field line
At the other end of the bridge, the configuration of the tracks has become clear.
In the foreground you can see the supports for the plaza as it will meet the corner of North Seventh Street and Third Avenue North.
Detail of the Puckett wall hanging
The splendid view from the roof of the Minikahda building. (Click to enlarge greatly.)
That's Fifth Street (and a tattooed arm) in the foreground.
Love the red flowers -- just like the original concept drawings. That NEVER happens.
Perhaps these very bold, Hitchcockian birds picking at left-over popcorn and peanuts were portents of what was to come.
Click to enlarge
Trampled, repaired, and re-trampled grass
Did I mention that the cheerleaders looked pretty sharp?
Griffith Stadium (notch visible in lower photo at far left)
One half of those windows are well-used.
Dancing for the cameras
Not sure what those supports are for -- probably stadia.
Target Plaza in model form
Press box, hallway to the print room
Gate 3 "Killebrew"
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.
Not much facade left to be finished at this point.
I suppose that one day my son will graduate from Mrs. Fields to Hooters. At least he won't have to travel too far. *Shudder*
Also from the same lobby, other window, a view which will clearly disappear before too long...