As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, there is plenty of outdoor baseball available right now if you're willing to seek it out. (I probably don't have to tell you this.)
Well, I was invited to go along on a group outing to Midway Stadium last night to enjoy some tailgating and a night game. Rain in the morning gave way to a beautiful afternoon and an even more perfect evening.
Midway Stadium (seen from our tailgating spot across the parking lot)
The Lincoln Saltdogs (and a promotional Nerd)
Our seats were out in General Admission/Family Section ($5). The top seat in the ballpark is only $12, so that would have been my preference, but when you're doing a group thing, this is pretty effortless.
There are GA sections on both sides of the field. We naively opted for the right field corner, not realizing that the sun would be directly in our eyes for the first half of the game. My scorecard contained a fair number of question marks because I just couldn't see what was happening. I finally gave up in the 5th inning (this also coincided with a trip for some cheese curds).
The payoff came, however, when the sun was finally shielded by those trees and we got to witness a genuine, deep Minnesota sunset. It was picture-perfect.
A spectacular golden hour
Party deck down the right field line
The party deck was closed for a private party, but you can see below that it's right next to a full concession area. Also behind the party deck was a beer stand, an ice cream stand, a fruit smoothie stand (staffed by a very lonely-looking teenager) and a bunch of games for the kids.
The pink thing is a mascot. (Actually, with a damn fine mascot actor underneath.)
I think that's a pig up there on that vane!
At various points I wondered just how much the experience represented a sneak preview of what we'll get at Target Field. My conclusion was that it's not much of a preview at all.
The architecture is obviously different, so I doubt that the setting sun will impact the outfield seats at Target Field for very long at all, though the sunsets themselves could be equally spectacular (the glare issue is for the main grandstand to deal with).
But it's the overall atmosphere that really defines the difference. At a Saints game, the promotional stuff seems to take priority. At a Twins game, the game itself never loses the spotlight. I could go on with details, but I think you know what I mean.
I know which I prefer, but that's not for everybody. And I was pleasantly surprised with the level of play I saw from both teams. It was up several notches from the last time I went out to Midway a few years ago.
Saints between innings
Train. (What is it about baseball and trains?)
They've kept Midway Stadium relatively up-to-date, but it's clear that the place needs replacing. You may have read that the Saints have teamed up with the city of St. Paul to ask the Legislature for $25 million for a new ballpark in the Lowertown area.
It's a great site, and a great idea. It also seems like a bargain.
The Strib ran an article with this map last month (thanks, James, for the link):
That was on a long list of possible Twins sites at one time, but really would not have worked well for Major League baseball. I can think of a couple of sites I like better for the Saints, but this would do just fine.
You'll note that the park would be oriented to the southwest, which is among the less desirable orientations. But it would probably provide a proportionally spectacular view of the St. Paul skyline.
I can find no concept drawings of a new Saints ballpark since this one from 10 or more years ago (sited across the river from downtown on a parcel which is no longer available):
The Saints' official site doesn't contain any mention of the project. Also, the site for the architect mentioned in the graphic was no help. It may or may not contain more info, but it has one of the worst navigational schemes I've seen on a web site in a very long time, so we'll probably never know.
I also couldn't help but wonder what impact Target Field may have on the Saints' business. If tailgating is a real possibility in Minneapolis, will the crowds thin further in St. Paul? (Though the official attendance on Friday night was around 6,000, at its peak the crowd only appeared to fill about 60% of the stands.)
Are people going there to see baseball outside, or are they drawn in by the overall level of casual (and highly economical) fun?
I like to believe there is room for both teams (and perhaps a third) in this market. But I'm inclined to predict tougher times next year out at Midway.
A true fan out in the bleachers
The sun took about 10 degrees of heat with it when it set, and we were reminded that three evening hours represent at least two different climate zones. We wished we had brought sweatshirts.
In that sense, I learned a little something that I'll need for next summer. So I say, get out there and experience it for yourself!
"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.
Solution for a hot night, just inside Gate 34 (that's a cool mist, by the way, not hot steam, which would be kind of cruel)
From the TV camera platform -- the view you'll see on TV
Good seats, but no scoreboard or sky.
A close-up of the rooftop party deck.
Banners on the parking ramp are a great touch. They help manage scale and turn a lemon into lemonade. On my way there today I passed the WCCO building and remembered how the Twins schedule used to be painted in giant form on the side of that building (which is no longer visible). Wouldn't that be a great thing to resurrect on the side of that ramp? A giant Twins schedule. I always thought that was cool.
They can put a camera just about anywhere. (Photo by Jeff Ewer)
This is the LRT path looking from the ballpark site (behind me) toward downtown. The line currently ends about two blocks up this street. This bridge over I-394 is also being partially rebuilt as part of the ballpark project.
Someone please get those poor people a drink of water. (Gate 34, after the game had started)
For those who have never seen it up close, that's what it looks like when steam comes out of the HERC plant.
Stairs down to the sidewalk from the skywalk over Seventh
The reverse angle shows that the signage will only partially obscure views from the top of the ramp. The wall is pretty high up there, so you'll need something to stand on, but it appears that this is one of the so-called "knotholes".
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)
The lot within the lot.
Now looking north, the tracks emerge from beneath Seventh Street as freight tracks only. The Northstar line ends at the northwest corner of the ballpark. One day, however, you can bet that other passenger trains will approach from the southwest metro on these tracks -- if our legislators are smart and persistent, that is.
This is what it looked like during the first open house in March.
Life in the shadows
Plaza extension reaches toward First Avenue
Trampled, repaired, and re-trampled grass
Nathan greeting the other pitchers on the all-Metrodome team (October 4, 2009)
The renderings and concept model differ here. MOJO thinks this is the perfect place for a party deck. Dave St. Peter seemed to agree!
Bag checking at Ball Park Lanes was incredibly simple, as was the pick up later. The line was short and fast-moving.
Greatest spot in the city for cooking up some hot dogs. And would you kill for that grill?
Perhaps these very bold, Hitchcockian birds picking at left-over popcorn and peanuts were portents of what was to come.
Click to see the full-size image.
Scoreboard as viewed from Fifth Street.
We took refuge for a time in the Twins Pub where you can drink a beer (or just hang out) and listen to some ballpark tunes. The organ is decorated with a TC (of course) and what looked like drawings which Sue has received from kids.
The entry from the platform to the ballpark.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)