June 23, 2006 1:14 AM
Before covering another big topic, I have accumulated a bunch of loose ends to be mentioned.
In talking with Twins president Dave St. Peter, I asked about the diamond orientation. In the concept drawings it faces due east, a byproduct of the strange orientation of the streets in downtown Minneapolis (which is itself a byproduct of the unfortunate decision to have Washington Avenue run roughly parallel to the river rather than east-west -- the fellow who made this decision is said to have been despondent late in his life when he realized what he had wrought upon the city).
Unfortunately, this means that half of the grandstand (running down the third base line) will be looking southeast toward the skyline view shown in the header above, while the other half (down the first base line) will be looking northeast toward, well, not much of anything.
When asked if the Twins would consider changing the diamond orientation to due south so that all of the stands would face the skyline, St. Peter said that even though it's all still conceptual, the drawings show the "preferred baseball orientation" as given to the team by HOK architects, and that the site limitations were a big part of that. He said that the team is committed to have as many seats as possible face the skyline, but that those which do not might actually have spectacular river views.
Looking northeast from the ballpark site (Source: LP)
Curious about this idea, I climbed up Ford Centre to the 11th floor and pointed my camera in the direction those stands will face, then took the picture you see above. The river is visible, but only due north, an area which will not be seen from the park (at left).
It's still something of a spectacular view, though not of the river. It is, in fact, the history of Minneapolis laid out in front of you. The old flour mills are visible, as are current and former rail yards, and all of the warehouses which sprung up in the years when Minneapolis was the flour milling capitol of the world. (I should point out that I'm fairly sure not many fans will know or care about any of this.)
In addition, it's entirely possible that new high-rise condo buildings will be a part of this view if any portion of the Twinsville project is built. St. Peter said that the Twins are supportive of this development, though not actively working with the developers.
Blast From the Past (and Cautionary Tale)
Over the weekend, the Strib ran an interview with Don Poss (cached here), who was to the Metrodome what Steve Cramer will be to the new ballpark (see yesterday's entry). He's the guy who oversaw design and construction. A few comments jumped out at me:
Q: Why is it important to be in downtown Minneapolis?
A: Stadiums belong downtown. Stadiums do not drive development. They repel development...
There, finally someone truly in-the-know has said it. We must make note of the fact that the Metrodome sparked exactly zero development nearby. All the promises made back then about the stadium attracting developers were flat out wrong. The value of surface parking was so great that it just never made sense to trade it for a building of any kind. This is a primary reason why there's virtually nothing of interest to fans (Hubert's excepted) anywhere near the Dome.
At the new site there are already plenty of parking ramps, so the surface lots nearby will have nowhere near the value of those near the Dome. The park itself will replace a lot of this, and what little surface parking is left does stand a chance of being developed into something more interesting. This is a Very Good Thing.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Metrodome today?
A: I by no means hold out the Metrodome to be a great baseball park. We built a football stadium and squeezed baseball into it...
I've never heard anyone actually admit this before. It's been a common criticism for 25 years, but as far as I know, this is the first time that anyone who was actually part of the decision-making process has come right out and admitted it.
This is one of the risks of having a political body making design decisions. The fans are going to have to be vocal in order to avoid design decisions based purely on practicality.
Practical buildings can also be great buildings -- and great architecture -- but only if that is one of the priorities built into the process.
A "Fair" Park
Given the limitations of the site, I asked St. Peter if he thought the Twins might end up with a Green Monster equivalent out in right. He said that was not a goal, but a possibility (everything still being up for discussion at this point). I also asked if they planned to tailor the park in any way toward the personnel they have coming up in the organization. He said they would like to do some of that, but that their goal was really to create a "fair park." Something like Safeco or Turner Field, he said. Then he threw in Cincinnati and Philadelphia as models which might be followed, and dismissed Minute Maid Park as "too hitter and homerun friendly."
I've heard the term "neutral park" before, of course, but never the term "fair park." (For those not statistically inclined, a neutral park is one which does not inherently favor either pitchers or hitters.)
According to ESPN's current park factor stats, both Safeco and Turner are definitely pitchers' parks, while Great American (Cin) and Citizen's Bank (Phil) are distinctly hitters' parks. Minute Maid looks like the most neutral of the five.
So what, exactly, could he have meant by "fair park"? He said the same thing to the Strib and Pioneer Press, but never elaborated. I'm open to ideas here, and I fully intend to write more about this if it starts to make sense.
Another tidbit I got was that the playing surface will be roughly at the grade of the parking lot. "Down a little bit, maybe," St. Peter said, "but not anything like the Metrodome." The Dome, as you know, is built in a gigantic hole in the ground. Many of the newer parks are built below street grade to, among other things, minimize the effects of wind. It also helps with moving people in and out (everybody walks in at street level, then half go up and half go down).
This came up in the context of Bassett Creek (which runs directly beneath the site). He did not expect the underground creek to be any major problem with the site.
This has been widely reported elsewhere, but I asked what kinds of ideas the team was getting from fans, and if there was anything they liked and maybe hadn't thought of.
St. Peter was coy, and unwilling to mention anything specific. But he did say that they've received some great ideas, and that they have set as a goal that fans may be able to walk into the place, point at something, and say, "I was responsible for that!"
That's a great goal to have, and hopefully bodes well for lots of fan involvement in the details of the design.
Web Site and Blog
There are many stipulations in the wording of the law which will create the new ballpark. One of them is that the Ballpark Authority is ordered to create a web site to keep the public informed of their activities. Of course, once it's up I'll link it from here.
In the meantime, St. Peter has started his own stadium blog. Could be interesting.
Detail of view to the northeast (Source: LP)
Thanks for stopping by here today. -- Rick
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Thoughts from the man behind the Metrodome
Thoughts from the man behind the Metrodome
Paul Levy, Star Tribune
Last update: June 18, 2006 – 12:57 AM
The man who built the Metrodome says that new stadiums don't encourage other business development, that building stadiums has evolved into a game among owners trying to "one-up" one another, that economics will persuade Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to remodel the Metrodome rather than build a stadium in Blaine -- and that Blaine will be no worse for that decision.
Don Poss, 73, was executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission when the Metrodome opened in 1982, on time and under its shoestring budget of $55 million. Later, he served as a consultant on an NFL stadium in St. Louis and the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission's National Sports Center in Blaine. He was city manager in Brooklyn Center and, later, Blaine.
He's retired now, but was an interested, if distant, observer during the past legislative session, when new stadiums were approved for the Twins and University of Minnesota, while the Vikings were left to wait until next year. He sat down with the Star Tribune last week in his Twin Cities home, offering his unique perspective on building stadiums in the Twin Cities. Excerpts from the conversation:
Q How difficult was it to build the Metrodome for $55 million?
A It was an impossible task. The stadium law was designed not to be implemented.
Then the law barely passed, by just one vote, that authorized a budget of $55 million. Nobody in their right mind thought it could be built for that. People laughed all over the country.
...Today, all the revisionists say we should have spent more. But not only did we build the Metrodome for slightly under the $55 million we were authorized to spend, we got
...Today, all the revisionists say we should have spent more. But not only did we build the Metrodome for slightly under the $55 million we were authorized to spend, we got . Pete Rozelle to personally sign the contract guaranteeing the Vikings would stay through their lease. And Pete Rozelle's word was binding. He was God.
Q Is it a mistake to build a baseball stadium in Minneapolis without a retractable dome?
A Do I think people will want to watch a baseball game on a cold April day while snow is being cleared outside the stadium? No. But you work within your budget -- and that's what this budget allows. To me, the more important factor is that the ballpark will be downtown.
Q Why is it important to be in downtown Minneapolis?
A Stadiums belong downtown. Stadiums do not drive development. They repel development. Downtown stadiums are much more accessible. You don't have to import legions of cops, worry about access to parking. It's already there.
Q What about Blaine and the proposed Vikings stadium?
A I told
A I told . Tom Ryan: "Isn't it strange that other cities aren't competing
A I told . Tom Ryan: "Isn't it strange that other cities aren't competing .? Blaine is going to develop into one of the finer cities in the Twin Cities community with or without the Vikings or the Northern Lights complex
A I told . Tom Ryan: "Isn't it strange that other cities aren't competing .? Blaine is going to develop into one of the finer cities in the Twin Cities community with or without the Vikings or the Northern Lights complex ..
That area will thrive without a stadium. A major retail complex could be built without a Vikings stadium and flourish. People in Bloomington lamented the Twins and Vikings moving to the Metrodome. But instead of having a vacant parking lot in their midst on days when there were no games, they now have Mall of America. Who needs a stadium?
Q Where do you think the Vikings will settle?
A Nothing against my friends in Blaine, but my prediction is the economy will convince
A Nothing against my friends in Blaine, but my prediction is the economy will convince . Zygi Wilf that he ought to remodel the Metrodome.
A Nothing against my friends in Blaine, but my prediction is the economy will convince . Zygi Wilf that he ought to remodel the Metrodome. . Red McCombs never wanted to consider that. But nothing precludes Zygi Wilf from staying in the Metrodome and still building Northern Lights in Blaine without 100 acres of blacktop needed for a Vikings' parking lot.
Q What did you learn during your tenure with the Miami Dolphins?
A My three-year stint with the Dolphins was eye-opening. I learned that it's a game amongst these people. If they're not winning a championship, the owners are one-upping one another by trying to build bigger and better stadiums.
In Miami, I delivered . . . by coming up with a concept of having a large number of loge or club seats. These privately held seats and skyboxes were literally financing the stadium.
Q What are your thoughts on the Metrodome today?
A I by no means hold out the Metrodome to be a great baseball park. We built a football stadium and squeezed baseball into it. It served its purpose. The Metrodome saved baseball and football in the Twin Cities.
The Metrodome was a wondrous site to behold when it opened in 1982. It's a different world today. You think Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are what stadiums should be and other people want new stadiums every 20 years. How do we pay for them? In this society of debt fueled by consumption and instant gratification, who has time to worry about that?
. Calvin Griffith used to lament to us that you can build the finest stadium, give it all the bells and whistles. And if you're team's not winning, you can shoot a cannon down the concourses and not hit a soul.
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419
Copyright 2006 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.
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