Dave St. Peter really hopes you like the new Twins ballpark. He has said it to me and to anyone who will listen, and I believe him. Clearly, he has put fan comfort and enjoyment above a whole lot of other things in his ballpark dreaming. In this regard, he has his priorities straight. (For the record, St. Peter has been very kind to this web site, answering my questions quickly and in a very straight-forward fashion. My hunch is that he's also great to work for. And no, I'm not looking for a job.)
This puts the Twins in something of a special category when it comes to ballpark design. I suspect other teams have received suggestions from fans about their new ballparks, and some teams have probably even solicited them. But I know of no other case where such a concerted effort has been made to get the fans involved. It's become a mantra. And I'm convinced that, in taking this to heart, they have a chance of building a truly great baseball place.
Twins president Dave St. Peter presents his list of fan suggestions to the Ballpark Authority
St. Peter is fond of saying that he fully expects there will be fans who walk into the new park and can point to something and truly say, "That was my idea." (For the record, I hope to point at the newly-restored Met Stadium flag pole!)
Back in August, the Twins released a compilation of some 2500 suggestions they had received directly from fans. These were all neatly entered into an Excel spreadsheet (downloadable here) and offered to the Ballpark Authority members in the interest of full disclosure and cooperation. At that point, the Twins had not yet formally asked to be allowed to design the park themselves. Since then, they have asked for and been officially granted this right.
That little change means that the design process is no longer really public at all. The Twins have been interviewing architects and engineering firms, and will be selecting one -- can you guess which one? -- in private. Then all of the design work will happen outside of the public eye, and a design will simply be presented to the Authority (and the public).
The only reason I don't like this is that I can't follow it. All of the brainstorming and other creativity will go on behind closed doors. Great ideas may fall victim to group-think or "we don't do things that way." There is the very real risk that a private process could devolve into a "make it like Camden Yards" approach. That would be bad.
Everybody Has An Idea
I hope the architects and engineers will read the suggestions, because they are pretty entertaining. We fans are very passionate about what we think makes for a great baseball place. St. Peter has started highlighting one idea per blog entry, but there are many more which are worthy of being heard -- if only to understand more about how the fans think about a new ballpark. Plenty of the ideas have not been heard anywhere else.
I saw it at another park...
The ideas seem to fall into vague categories. First, there are the requests for things which are pretty much given, such as wider seats and aisles, more restrooms, historical references (statues and museums), seats which face the infield, etc. Second, there are requests for things which are not really up for discussion, such as the name (lots of calls for honoring Kirby), the location, and the roof (or lack thereof). Third are the suggestions for adding local flavor, from pine trees, lakes or waterfalls in the outfield, to a wide variety of food requests. Fourth is a long list of Things I Saw At Another Park which they think should be copied here, from fountains to ferris wheels to fireworks.
There are also lots of contradictory suggestions. For every fan who hates the baggie, there's another who wants to keep it. For every fan who wants a hitters park, there's another who wants a pitchers park. For every fan who wants a manual scoreboard, there's another who wants everything state-of-the-art. For every fan who wants the bullpens in foul territory there's another who insists they be beyond the outfield walls (one fan simply pleaded earnestly to make sure there are bullpens in the new park). For everyone who wants a classic brick facade, there's someone who wants something more modern and unique. For everyone who wants amusement park rides, there's someone who hates the idea.
The milk carton also turns out to be highly controversial. Some fans love it and want it made bigger and placed even more prominently. Others just wish it would go away forever. (I think I'm with the latter group.)
One area in which there is virtually universal agreement in these suggestions is the roof. People from out-state are still lobbying furiously for a roof -- retractable or not. Surprisingly, many point to Milwaukee as the model to follow, despite the fact that Miller Park's roof may be the single ugliest, most expensive and most obnoxious feature of any park built in recent memory. And it leaks.
I remain staunchly anti-roof, and I believe there are some very good reasons to avoid building one (and not a single compelling reason to spend the extra time and money). But it's clear that this could be a real public relations issue for the team. They are going to have to make sure that the word gets out about just how few rainouts there were back at the Met.
I'm also surprised to read so many negative comments about wheelchair seating at the Metrodome. I honestly had no idea it was as bad as described. But fixing this really must be on the list of "givens."
Suggestion Box Sampling
Then there are the unique, offbeat and creative. I haven't had time to read the entire list, but here are some which jumped out at me:
"Finish the inside walls of each dugout with Knotted Pine. It will provide a subtle Northern Minnesota look when TV cameras pan inside the dugouts to view the players & coaches."
"...a large neon version of the classic 'two guys' logo would be spectacular in center field. Whenever the Twins hit a home run, the two guys would shake hands across the river."
"Post team photos of every Twins team in history in the concourse."
"Maybe a Red (outfield) wall."
"i think it would be great to have some type of tower that an eagle or hawk lived in at the ballpark"
"Put Buttons On Seats, that represent different foods or drinks. then the vendors will have a computer thing and it shows them what seat pressed the button and then will deliver the food or drink."
"Have a river rock backstop, similar to the brick backstops at Wrigley and in Pittsburgh. It will make for interesting bounces on wild pitches/passed balls."
"Put a Paul Bunyan statue somewhere that blows either a load or else steam out of its nose everytime a twin gets both hit by a pitch and a homerun in the same game."
"An aquarium with native MN fish in it built into one of the outfield walls."
"Most importantly a more relaxed beach ball policy."
"A couple rows of corn should grow within view behind the outfield."
"Have coin operated heated seats."
"So many people seem worried about 'rain outs' since the new stadium will not have a roof. Work out a deal with Mall of America or a Water Park, Valley Fair, the MN Zoo, some downtown theaters, movie theaters, or restaurants, etc. so that when a rain out occurs a Twins Ticket will be accepted as admission or as a coupon to use at their venues."
"Please, no murals of famous Minnesotans etched in laser-cut brick relief."
"In the right center field wall I think you should add a dugout, which would be enclosed but also stay padded for players safety. You would be at about knee level while watching the game. Sort of like a sky box, but underground. Seating about 20-30 fans."
"For a Minnesota theme, how about a section of the outfield with a cabin, with ... a large deck where selected patrons could sit and watch the game from the outfield cabin deck."
There's a sample of some fine (if occasionally odd) Minnesota creativity. I'll post more as I have time to continue reading the list.
"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.
This appears to be the floor to the home dugout!
Also from the B ramp entrance off of Third, a look up at the tiny crack between ballpark and parking ramp
That warning sign doesn't mention anything about the potential for bludgeoning or limb removal by the revolving doors...
Looking back toward the ballpark from Third Avenue and Fifth Street. Again, the track configuration is now clearly visible.
Purple flowers above Second Avenue
A glimpse of the rather plain west facade (the side which faces the HERC plant).
Wright's Marin County Hall of Justice, San Rafael, California (1959)
A path for workers -- don't touch the plaza! -- in front of three giant Chia pets
Concept drawing for the fan/player appreciation wall. (Click to enlarge.)
(Click to enlarge.)
The Ballpark Authority at work (Source: RP)
Time to paint those supports Vikings-purple.
Thome steps in.
The right field foul pole seen against a backdrop of Butler Square (itself a site of great significance in the history of professional baseball in Minneapolis)
Viewed from an A ramp elevator lobby.
No arches. No brick. No girders. Classic.
That's part of the wind veil, waiting in the B ramp for installation
Wayfinding within the B ramp is still a work in progress.
This would have been the HERC side, though it's unclear just how far over the plant the retracted roof would have gone. My fear was always that they would have to shorten the track and more of the roof would have stayed over the ballpark. The only good retractable roof is one which disappears when not in use. I don't think they could have realistically created such a thing.
August 2001 (a month later we were engaged)
Work going on under the steel.
Larry DiVito takes a last check of everything before the game starts
Section 117, Row WC (applies to all the back rows under the Legends Club seating)
This design has a rather generic quality to it, but they appear to have considered the B garage. Though it isn't part of the model, they've clearly left room for it.
The Fifth Street side is pretty busy. There's a small street entrance to the B ramp, then ticket booths and an entrance gate, a rare exterior section not covered in limestone, the wooden screen covering the circulation ramps, the administration building, and finally (just out of view) the interface with Northstar. All of that sits behind the LRT action. How pedestrians will interact with this side of the park is a great mystery to me. You know that Metro Transit won't be letting them cross the tracks anywhere but at either end of the block...