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 3033 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Rich Pogin (left) and Bruce Lambrecht (Source: Skyway News)
Work has begun on the plaza, and the activity has started to impact I-394 traffic.
Brick work just inside the opening matches the color of the limestone - per Jerry Bell's requirements.
A portrait of the 573 Club.
Detail showing clubhouse and home dugout (click to see the entire drawing)
Larry DiVito takes a last check of everything before the game starts
Here's the field of posts which will support the third base side of the grandstand. Some walls have started to appear about where the Northstar riders will enter the park.
The Pohlads were loose. A-Rod looked, um, you decide.
Best view available from the "B" ramp.
Home Plate Terrace -- really great seats; maybe my personal, budget-based favorite
Click to enlarge.
Here's a rack of lights being prepared for lifting into the canopy.
One more exterior view shows that, while the original look was attractive in a way, it seems to be a variation on the look of the Washington ballpark (albeit with a much more coherent collection of elements). What's remarkable is that the design team has refined the concept amazingly well, improving it immeasurably. What we're actually getting is clearly descended from this, but it's in a whole different league:
An arch under construction.
From the best seat in the house (Section 8, Row A), the right field corner is blocked. (No one may care. Fine with me. People should know.)
Special guests in the trees!
Big board, as viewed from section 327, row 9.
Is it possible to take a bad picture of this building?
These are the outside tracks which go under the promenade
Handshakes all around (there's gonna be a lot of that over the next few weeks)
TC caps everywhere! (Is that you?)
Thome steps in.
Artist at work
This is NOT Twins Territory anymore
This view clearly shows the curve in the left field stands and the relationship of the first row with the playing field (no overhang to speak of in left).
The view from the corner of Ford Centre. (Feel free to tie up your boats here.)
Hot dawgs! Getcher hot dawgs!
Viewed from a different angle, it seems fair to wonder is some of those seats will have slightly obscured views. Yet, if they're cheap, that's not a problem.
A classic profile on the horizon
The rules were clearly posted next to this new entry point on the Seventh Street side. I have no problem with the rules!
A truck is leaving the HERC plant. Here you can see the proximity to the promenade. For the record, the truck drove right by me and I smelled nothing...