MOJO and I had a chance to talk with Dave St. Peter over the ballpark concept model in the TCF atrium yesterday. Perhaps some of you were there as well. The crowd was small but very attentive.
Actually, MOJO served up most of the questions and I sat back and listened, chiming in only for clarification on a couple of points. Frankly, I would make a terrible investigative reporter. If you come here looking for juicy inside scoops, I'm sorry to say you'll probably be disappointed. Analysis, on the other hand, now that's my thing.
But we did get some very interesting tidbits.
The first one follows a bit on a thread which keeps resurfacing, and the point of which I am only now starting to get. After comparing the new park to the Dome in my previous article, I concluded that almost every seat in the new park will have a great view of the action, far better (and more comfortable on the neck) than the Metrodome.
But to do that, they've essentially gotten rid of all the bad seats. This sounds great until you realize that the better the seat, the higher the price. Bad seats = cheap seats. Good seats = expensive seats.
For those of us who can't really afford to venture into the lower deck or even infield seating, this could be a pretty big problem. When I look at the seating diagrams, I fully expect to see most games from the so-called "View Level" (which is just beneath the canopy) -- and probably pretty far down the lines.
Though the dollars will probably be different, it's instructive to look at the pricing levels at other similar parks such as PNC Park, Safeco Field and the one in San Francisco (which changes name too often for me to keep up). The Twins will likely create similar break points, with similar relative pricing levels.
This is the left field pavilion in the original concept model. The restaurant pictured to its right has been moved, and the seating area has been extended at least one full section toward center.
When asked what changes have been made in the design since the concept model was built, the first thing St. Peter said is that they're trying to add more outfield seating. The left field pavilion has already been extended toward center by one full section, and may get more. The restaurant which was shown in the outfield has been moved to the building in the left field corner, which creates a lot more room.
Someone else asked about ticket prices, and Dave's answer hasn't changed much. He said that though they haven't settled on anything, they'll be trying to keep it as affordable as possible. That segued into a discussion of how gaining control of concessions will actually help keep ticket prices down. That led one person to say that he already pays more for food than he does for the ticket. (Though I didn't let on, the discussion put me in the mind of this article about ballpark prices over at The Hardball Times.)
The renderings and concept model differ here. MOJO thinks this is the perfect place for a party deck. Dave St. Peter seemed to agree!
MOJO wanted clarification about the roof area on that building at the left field foul pole. St. Peter said that they'd had discussions about putting a party area there, and even had it in the design at one point. He didn't quite commit to it, but seemed to think it was a definite possibility.
Many people have asked me this, so I asked Dave about the roof of the parking ramp which dominates the view beyond center field (the so-called "B ramp"). The answer surprised me, because it turns out that those ramps are owned and/or controlled at least in part by the Federal government. Any time you build something over an interstate highway, the Federal Highway Administration has a say. This also goes for the plaza and walking bridge which will also cross I-394.
Dave said he had heard all kinds of ideas tossed around for the top of that ramp, including a restaurant, and the Twins are eager to be involved in any planning which takes place, but technically have no control over it. This sounded like one of the many legal details which have to be resolved in any project of this size.
On the other side of the park, the team does control the land to the south on which their parking lot will be built. They have development rights for 15 years on this land, and though it will be surface parking when the ballpark opens in 2010, it's entirely possible that something else will happen with that land before their option expires.
A few weeks ago there were sand volleyball courts here. When the park opens, this will be surface parking. Maybe one day there will be something more interesting built on top of that parking...
On one hand, this is a bit disappointing. I've talked before about the neighborhood issues, and one thing that could help resolve the walkability of the area would be for something nice to be built on that land with retail storefronts opening onto Seventh Street. With that area remaining as surface parking below the bridge, there will be no disguising that the ballpark is essentially built between two freeway-style bridges. That, in turn, works against the neighborhood feel that the team clearly covets.
On the other hand, it's at least a hopeful situation. St. Peter made a point of saying that they don't want what happened to the Metrodome to happen at the new park. That is, they don't want their crown jewel to sit in a desolate landscape. Having the development rights means they can do something about it themselves. On balance, and over the long haul, it's likely an acceptable situation.
There were a few specific questions about things seen on the model, and Dave was quick to dismiss the model as just a concept that is now almost four months old. We shouldn't get hung up, he said, on any of the details we see there.
The proposed wooden screen covering the circulation ramp on Fifth Street (at left is the equivalent screen on Seventh Street).
One of those details on which I wanted some clarification was the screen which is pictured on the Fifth Street facade covering the circulation ramps. It looked to me like bamboo at first glance, but Dave clarified that the designers had suggested the wood lattice-like covering as a means of softening the appearance of those ugly ramps and integrating them with the rest of the facade. But he quickly added that nothing like that was in the current budget.
Seeing people moving in those ramps is very important in connecting what goes on inside to the neighborhood outside. It also lends an air of excitement and anticipation when approaching the ballpark on foot. How they solve that isn't as important as making sure that it does look integrated with the rest of the building without hiding the purpose of the area.
Next, I asked if there were buildings in downtown Minneapolis which were built with the type of limestone they expect to use. Again, the answer surprised me. They haven't actually picked out the stone yet, and have not exactly decided what color it will be, how rough it will be cut, and other such details. He did mention the WCCO-TV building as one that they like, and another building in downtown St. Paul (the name of which I didn't catch).
One of the diagrams in the display that I hadn't seen before held a small but interesting detail. The park will be connected to the "A ramp" to the south (from which I have been taking my site status photos) by a skyway to be built over Seventh Street, and possibly connected to an escalator outside the ballpark. In addition, there has been talk of making a direct connection with the "B ramp" onto the plaza, or maybe directly into the park.
There was some scoreboard talk, and it's clear that St. Peter wants to make sure every seat in the place has access to instant replays in addition to vital stats. The current plan has the scoreboard directly above the bullpens, but St. Peter seemed concerned about fans sitting in foul territory down the left field line, whose view could be blocked by the restaurant building there.
This sounded like a very open issue. As I look at the design, it seems obvious that a second large scoreboard will be needed, perhaps over the main entry gates from the plaza. This would cover the left field pavilion nicely as well as anyone else whose view of the other scoreboard is blocked. Imagine that: TWIN scoreboards! That would be an MLB first, I think, and what better franchise to do it!
It would also offer an opportunity to implement a great idea I saw in the drawings for Cisco Field (currently proposed for the Oakland Athletics). In that design, the scoreboard is double-sided, allowing people on the plaza outside the park to see at least some of what's going on. This would be a great amenity to have, especially if the plaza ends up with green space of any sort.
This is the back of the Cisco Field scoreboard, showing video to folks out on the plaza.
At events like this, Dave St. Peter always seems to be a very gracious and willing ballpark ambassador. I'm sure he hears the same gripes and ideas over and over, but he doesn't let on. And who among us wouldn't like to be in a position to say, "This ballpark needs more outfield seats!" I'll bet that designing a ballpark, though full of headaches and pressures, is really a lot of fun.
I think what I'll take away from this brief update is the sense that many things are still being decided, and the Twins staff is very active in these discussions. That is essential if this is to be a great ballpark. HOK, for all their strengths, is only as good as their collaborators. Their style is now recognizable, to the point of being almost a ballpark cliche. Their parks have something of a cookie-cutter quality.
But Dave's comments made it clear once again that the Twins do not want a cookie cutter park. They want to build "a landmark which can last 50 to 75 years -- or longer." How the Twins implement and shape the HOK style, as well as how they realize all of the millions of details, will determine just how successful and timeless this ballpark becomes.
"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.
This is also the promenade, where the first indications of the final texture of the walkway can be seen. This layer of concrete is going on top of gravel (as has been done over on the plaza).
If you are into shade, there are lots of opportunities. This is from the last row in section 108 -- scoreboard not blocked in the least.
I set up my late inning "office" at the drink rail behind section 206
From behind the wind veil
Here are some less intrusive things things you can actually get at the ballpark.
Approach in the A ramp to the skywalk over Seventh
Walkway sneak peek
Fencing is going up all along the plaza
Stairs and escalator down to the platform
From last week, you can see the piers taking shape. I believe that the front row, visible here as just forms and reinforcing rods, is the front edge of the plaza.
The Northstar circulation building is starting to take shape.
This looks south and shows the track configuration for Northstar. The platform shown is just a placeholder. To the best of my knowledge, concept drawings for this platform have not been released. Keep in mind, this is NOT part of the ballpark project. It is completely separate.
A glimpse of the rather plain west facade (the side which faces the HERC plant).
Section 139, Row 8
Another classic space in the making above the Hrbek gate.
Team pennant. (Click to enlarge.)
Note that the sign in the background will NOT be changed because "Twins Way" doesn't extend this far north.
That's Fifth Street (and a tattooed arm) in the foreground.
The Lincoln Saltdogs (and a promotional Nerd)
The start of the VIP entrance and loading dock.
I didn't check the menu too closely, but it looks like all the standard fare is available, and not much of the non-standard stuff.