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Hooky, Anyone?

May 16, 2008 1:33 AM

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Today would have been that day.

The sunny, blue sky, 70-degree afternoon baseball game would have been on your mind from the moment you left the house. Projects? Tasks? Clients? Bah.

If the Twins had been playing in their new ballpark today, you would have simply left it all behind. You would have gotten a walk-up ticket for the outfield bleachers (the ones in full sunshine at all times), loosened your tie, rolled up your sleeves, donned a Twins cap.

You would have absorbed some of that golden Minnesota sun, made a mess of a hot dog, scribbled on a scorecard, and done a three-hour sigh over a ballet on green under blue.

Extra innings? Bring 'em on!

A day-night double-header make-up game for an earlier rain out? Why not play/watch/score two?

The Twins may not have won, but you would have.

There's the beauty of outdoor baseball right there. On a day like today, everybody wins even if their team comes up one skinny run short.

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There were 18,701 fans stuck under the gray across town this afternoon. I'm sure they had a great time. But I'm also sure that within every single group there was someone who said, "Wouldn't this be a great day for outdoor baseball?"

Alas, you couldn't catch a game over in the railyard today, but the rays were there alright. And I'll be damned if it didn't feel just a little bit like Wrigleyville in the neighborhood.

I came in on 394, underneath the new series of bridges that form the plaza. From that vantage point, it looks something like a construction zone squeezed into the median of a freeway.

Resisting the urge to enter one of the ramps, I took the Third Avenue exit to Washington Avenue and turned left, aiming for Ford Centre.

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Those two blocks of Washington were positively buzzing. Even the -- ahem -- seedier elements could not overcome the great dignity of the gigantic warehouse cubes with all their detailed 19th-century finery.

And there were people crawling all over the place. Normal people. Not the type who are going to slink into one of those slimy pink buildings in a trench coat. The type who are just going about their every-day business and might be on their way to the ballpark on a day like this! (I know, there is some overlap in those two sub-categories of humanity.)

It occurred to me that this ballpark needs to connect to Washington somehow. This is a street which can seriously put the "urban" in "urban ballpark."

Washington Avenue is grand in a way that First Avenue just is not. That's not meant to knock First Avenue, but merely acknowledge that neighborhoods just can't develop properly with a one-way freeway barreling between the two sidewalks.

This is a huge problem throughout downtown. When everything went one-way, what was gained in automobile efficiency was lost (on a much greater scale) in walkability and human scale. High-speed funnels for cars and buses are simultaneously symptoms and causes of erosion in civic pride. Despite their distinctiveness, skyways reduce cities to bland office corridors connecting to more bland office corridors. What life is left on the street is mostly trying to get back to the parking ramp without getting killed.

I don't hate skyways. They are great in the winter, and have a definite convenience throughout the year. But I do hate the one-way freeways which bedevil anyone who chooses to venture onto the street (thus encouraging people to stay in the skyways for safety).

What makes it worse is that street parking is so severely limited, either by bus lanes or loading zones or rush hour restrictions or just mysterious red bags locked onto parking meters. Without parked cars, it's hard to ever feel safe on a sidewalk. You're naked to the traffic.

This is simply not the case up on Washington Avenue North.

Washington is busy, but traffic moves at a pedestrian-friendly pace and in both directions. There is no cut-throat, frantic lane-changing going on. Traffic pauses for cars emerging from or maneuvering into parking spaces. People pull into turn lanes and wait for oncoming traffic to pass.

It's just so...civilized.

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If you're in a car, maybe you hate all of that. But now we're talking about a key ingredient to an urban ballpark: it must be pedestrian friendly. More than friendly, it must actively encourage people to get out of their cars and walk the last few blocks.

Still more than that, it must provide them with reasons to saunter, reasons to stay, reasons to feel safe.

As I drove down Washington today, it reminded me of Clark Street in Chicago. It's busy but not frantic. The sidewalks are lined with interesting things -- doors, windows, steps, awnings, signs, colors -- at street level.

Retail spaces are slim and packed together. Rather than one big restaurant on the corner, five bars may be squished together within one block.

The liveliness feeds on itself and just can't be extinguished.

Washington Avenue has that feel, and it needs to have a way to feed that into the ballpark.

The sidewalks are wide, and there's plenty of buffer zone between people on feet and people in cars. Pedestrians clearly feel safer, and seem to linger a bit more, even hang out on the corners (especially near the music tech place). People can be seen actually strolling with coffee cups in hand. The pace is just different.

There is great potential waiting to be tapped.

Long ago there was a concept called Twinsville (pictured above right; maybe you remember it -- don't think too hard about who brought it forth). Despite its somewhat rose-colored outlook, it did feature an amazing three-block promenade which directly connected ballpark to neighborhood.

Such a thing may be beyond the team's control, but it's not beyond the city's control. This is exactly where the city has to step up and connect one great asset to another. (If someone from the city has something to tell me on this subject -- or any ballpark-related subject for that matter -- I'd love to hear from you. Email me, Rick, at this domain.)

That diagram contains new construction lining the promenade, a great idea with potential to pull everything together. But there are already opportunities for redevelopment in place.

I took two pictures of the buildings which line Third Avenue north of the ballpark (at right, the top is Third Ave, the middle is the back of those buildings, bottom is the Washington Avenue bridge three blocks away).

Both front and back of these buildings are rife with opportunities for bars, restaurants, outdoor seating, other retail. This has to be on somebody's radar, right?

The alternative would be either to in-fill the whole area which is currently parking with monolithic condo projects served by serpentine driveways and turn-arounds, or let it simply become service area for the park. Neither option would satisfy.

Tailgating Redux

I know that some of you would love to do some tailgating on those lots. Maybe for a while, but the land is too valuable to lay fallow for long.

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And forget about the tops of the parking ramps. The liability issues are off the charts.

The suggestion was made to use the parking lots just to the northwest underneath the freeways. These are controlled by Ford Centre -- i.e. the Pohlads -- so it's not an impossibility.

In fact, that's a pretty darn good idea. There's lots of space which could be easily retro-fitted with ash bins. The freeway also provides some shelter on the colder days.

On the other hand, the road blocks the sun on nice days.

Plus, it wouldn't work for weekday afternoons.

I have no personal philosophical stand on tailgating. Some people like it, some don't, some don't care. (I've never done it, but I'm willing to try!)

My guess is that somebody will be tailgating somewhere near the park. You'll just have to find it. That's part of the fun in getting to know a new place, right?

Speaking of Skyways

This image from the Ballpark Authority confirms that there will be a staircase directly from the plaza to the long skyway which runs between the ballpark and Target Center.

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What you see there is the B ramp in the background, the skyway at right, and the plaza at the bottom(with a little grassy area showing at the base of the stairs).

(Try not to look at the player pictured in the gigantic banner.)

Here's a diagram with the area in question circled:

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As I took pictures today, I saw lots of pedestrians and workers in the area. I'm sure that some of them saw only a dusty construction site.

Maybe it was the sun, or the fact that I had been listening to the game for a good hour in the car before getting to the site, but walking around there today, I felt (for the first time, I think) something of what it will really be like to see a ballgame here.

It was good.

Tomorrow, more sunny photos.

Comments


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As always Rick, thank you for the pictures and insight. You really do bring this project into my living room 2000 miles away.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 02:07 AM by kevin in az Highlight this comment 1

Thanks for clarifying the staircase, Rick. I see they're also going to punch a hole in the parking deck on the plaza level to connect pedestrians to the escalators and elevators inside the B-ramp. That's a good idea.

I'd also like to see them add a staircase at the Skyway emergency exit tower on 7th. The more skyway/street connections we can get, the better.

Nevermind the banners on the B-ramp either - what I want to see covering that ramp is a green wall - see link.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 08:22 AM by Alex B. Highlight this comment 2

Thanks rick! Im really getting excited, I am going down to the site sunday to have a look its been a few weeks...way to long...

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 08:25 AM by Mazarartirick Highlight this comment 3

Just a thought....Are they going to put a screen on the side of the ramp facing the plaza?? (see link) I havent heard any news about it, but it appears to be present in this early rendering. Also..are they going to have standing room tickets for the plaza? To me this seems like the last resort to see a big game if the stadium is sold out.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 10:22 AM by Meatball Highlight this comment 4

Apparently the media (minus yours truly) was invited out to tour the site yesterday on the one-year anniversary of the start of construction.

Click my name to see the KSTP report.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 10:26 AM by Rick 5

Click my name to view the Fox9 report.

You'll notice that these two reports contain almost exactly the same details. It's a funny thing that I've learned about the media's relationship to the story (which I won't go into right now).

Anyway, I usually get invited to such things. Hello, Twins?? What gives? I've got access to a hard hat now!

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 10:32 AM by Rick 6

rick, you gotta run for mayor

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 11:03 AM by yeahklye Highlight this comment 7

Nice analysis, Rick. I totally agree with your thoughts on Washington Ave. Connecting it to the park and building retail and food would create a stellar gameday atmosphere.

...and the Twins would be wise to include you (if not exclusively at times) on official updates!

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 11:08 AM by Jeff Highlight this comment 8

Nice piece, Rick. I agree that a connection to Washington Avenue is very desirable for the ballpark. I thought they were going to be extending that bike path along the railroad tracks, through the ballpark site and all the way to the river as part of this. I wonder if the path could be made more pedestrian friendly (like the dual paths around Lakes Calhoun, Harriet and Isles) and conncected to Washinton Ave? Anybody know what the plans are for that path?

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 1:14 PM by N. Looper Highlight this comment 9

Great post Rick! I don’t know if anybody remembers this, but there was a “North Loop Village” plan direct north of the new ballpark. Unfortunately, I don’t think this cool proposal would be realistic in our current housing and economic slump. Click on my name for the PDF link.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 2:15 PM by Andy T Highlight this comment 10

I remember it, it would be awesome if that would become a reality. Maybe when our economy is fixed it can become a reality, unless people quit bugging the politicians after the park is built, like at the Metrodome site. Wouldn't that be awesome...like our own Central Park and Twinsville.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 2:41 PM by Tom Highlight this comment 11

Andy,

Thanks for the link. I hadn't sen this literature on the proposal before. The best thing about it is that it shows the Riverview and NE Diagonal transitways, critical links that are not currently in the Met Council's long-term transit plan.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 3:02 PM by David Highlight this comment 12

as always rick - great analysis & pics. btw - your site puts any ballpark “report” on KSTP or KMSP to shame.

andy t - my gut tells me that eventually that north loop style of neighborhood near the ballpark site will become a reality sooner rather than later. that is just the way the pattern seems to be going in terms of people's living patterns, entertainment desires, etc. more and more people don't seem to want to move way out into the suburbs with the single family home in the middle of nowhere and commute back into the city each day. with $4 a gallon gas that is only going to become ever more true. once the credit markets & real estate markets correct themselves i feel we will see this stuff get built.

and when we get a new vikings stadium built on the east end of downtown mpls we should see it over there too. i know zygi wilf has a lot of plans and money in place that he is willing to invest in development. the idiots (john marty of roseville) at the capitol just need to make sure they don't get in the way of something that can be really good for minneapolis and the state in general.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 3:02 PM by Betaband Highlight this comment 13

I would not be a fan of tailgating under those viaducts. Click the link to a post I made on my blog a few months ago about how I think the North Loop neighborhood (and the area around the ballpark) would benefit from removing the viaducts and moving the i-94 traffic to local streets through the North Loop.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 3:27 PM by barry Highlight this comment 14

Having worked in the shadow of the Ford Centre for the past six months, I have really grown to enjoy the Washington Ave. area. I take a walk at lunchtime every day - either around the ballpark site or towards the river. There is a lot of recent nice development over on the river that needs to be connected to any further development between the ballpark and Washington. This could really be a stunning neighborhood with a bit of work. Hopefully saving some of the old warehouses and other buildings can help build that charm.

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 3:43 PM by Badjuggler Highlight this comment 15

Did anyone else see what was in the garbage burner spot on Rick's Twinsville photo above. How interesting would that be?

Posted on May 16, 2008 at 11:22 PM by MOJO Highlight this comment 16

I have to agree with you MOJO...I was thinking the same exact thing. I don't know how old that rendering/proposal is, but that was the first time I have ever seen a Vikings Stadium (or any stadium) proposed on the site of the HERC building.

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 01:21 AM by Luke H. Highlight this comment 17

They were dreaming big, weren't they?

No, the Vikes need to rebuild right where they are. The Twins will need the HERC parcel anyway. A few decades from now they'll need to build another new ballpark, and that will be the perfect spot!

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 01:27 AM by Rick 18

Can anyone tell me, who do I speak to, to invest in this project? Please contact me directly @ 612-201-8728.

Thank you

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 07:59 AM by Alice Ferguson Highlight this comment 19

Alice,

Aaahhh, this is a publically/privately financed stadium that has been 10 years in the making, I think you are a little late...

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 08:20 AM by Matt Highlight this comment 20

There was talk about a development called "dock street" that would run parallel to 3rd Ave N and connect the ballpark to Washington. I linked an article.

Also, I read somewhere that the area zoned around the park limits new building heights to the size of the Minnkahda Storage building, which is roughly seven stories. I don't know how big of an area that zoning covers, but I don't think we'll see any big, high-rise condos built directly next to the park.

At first, I thought this was unfortunate because how cool would it be to watch a game from one of those balconies. Then reality set in and I realized I would never own one of those condos anyway. Besides, I kind of like having the skyline view over right field and open, blue skies over left. I know a lot of people were unhappy with the alignment of the stadium because it didn't directly face the skyline, but I think this is better because it doesn't make the ballpark feel boxed in.

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 12:21 PM by Chris Highlight this comment 21

"but I think this is better because it doesn't make the ballpark feel boxed in"

I totally agreee. Minneapolis is missing some open area in the downtown (Peavey Plaza just doesn't cut it) so I am glad it is going to be like this.

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 5:12 PM by annoying customer Highlight this comment 22

I know this is random but this state would not be worth living in if the Vikings move.

Posted on May 17, 2008 at 11:16 PM by random Highlight this comment 23

Does anyone think that it is going to be a proble that you will have to cross the tracks to get from the stadium to the LRT Station? Currently at the metrodome there is a platform on either side of the tracks, but the new one looks like it is a center platform.

Posted on May 29, 2008 at 10:35 AM by Andrew Highlight this comment 24


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.


This may look like just some guy (perhaps a spy) headed for the train. But it's actually the Northstar engineer!






I meant to include this shot the other day. It's the new LRT bridge being built next to the remaining half of the Fifth Street bridge. The new half is almost TWICE the width of the portion torn down. And the other end runs right into a HERC administration building! (Click to see the view from nearly the same spot about 85 years ago.)



Ballpark magic: Infield materializes (click to enlarge)



Usher Anna hands out Homer Hankies



Stairs and escalator down to the platform



Glass going in over the Oliva gate.



Section 125, Row 1






Write your own caption. (Photo by Jeff Ewer)






The main ticketing area beneath the restaurant.



This mural is behind the staircase. The window looks onto the promenade, and the door goes to a kitchen.






A recent view of the Bud deck in progress









TC gets ready to release the hounds. (Kids get to run the bases after Sunday games.)









More of a bird's-eye view of the same area.



This is where you will put out your butts -- I mean enjoy some pretty flowers.



This is the plaza as viewed from the A ramp.









The pink thing is a mascot. (Actually, with a damn fine mascot actor underneath.)



Also warming things up are these planters.



Here's the entrance from the seating bowl. It's down the outer moat, just beyond the last of the Dugout Box sections.



Look familiar? Unfortunately, just adding little balconies with cool angles will not offset the pervading ugliness.



Gate 34 Puckett



Dancing for the cameras






Approach in the A ramp to the skywalk over Seventh






That's Noah and my brother, Chris, checking out the Loge Box amenities



Poles through the gap



Chef stand and menu in the Carew atrium



Champion's Club details (click to enlarge)






The Fun Zone/Rescue Area in Oakland during the second inning



The Guthrie Theater's Wurtele Thrust Stage seating






Ballark Authority members listen to the LEED introduction



Ballpark elevation diagram, viewed from Fifth Street. (Click to enlarge.)



Integrating the administration building was really a great idea. Actually, there will be more things inside than just offices, but that will probably be some sweet space.



Trains now rumble regularly beneath the promenade.












The heretofore unseen north facade (click to enlarge). Does it look like a ballpark? And what's with the bamboo?


Glossary

BPM - Ballpark Magic

BRT - Bus Rapid Transit

DSP - Dave St. Peter

FSE - Full Season Equivalent

FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)

HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)

HPB - Home Plate Box

HRP - Home Run Porch

LC - Legends Club

LRT - Light Rail Transit

MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)

MOA - Mall of America

MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)

NYS - New Yankee Stadium

SRO - Standing Room Only

STH - Season Ticket Holder

TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium

TF - Target Field

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