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Fake History?

October 27, 2006 1:36 PM

While perusing the many suggestions the Twins have received from fans, I came across this one that pretty much sums up how a lot of people feel:

From outside the stadium, it should look and feel as though this stadium were built 50-75-100 years ago.

This is the legacy of Camden Yards. Now everyone wants a ballpark that looks like or seems like or kinda gives the impression that it was built during the classic ballpark era. By that, they usually mean arched window openings and exposed brick and steel.

Camden Yards is a great park, but it was an even better marketing move. Major League Baseball has long been selling nostalgia as their primary product, and what better storefront than something that looks like it's from those misty yesteryears.

But is this what we really want? Do we want fake history?

There is at least one reason to build in this style, so let's get that out of the way. Our new park will be built smack dab in the middle of the Minneapolis warehouse district, which can reasonably be described as teeming with really old buildings.

Wyman-Partridge building

The top of a warehouse visible beyond a parking ramp.

This is at least the impression it gives, and for the most part it's true. But if you drive the neighborhood these days, you'll find a startlingly large number of new buildings tucked in among the classic old boxes. The area has become very attractive to condo developers and businesses, and every patch of vacant land seems to have something new sprouting on it. Many of these new buildings are blissfully unaware of their surroundings.

But if you think about those surroundings for a minute, you realize that the area has long been kind of a patchwork of styles. On one side of the ballpark site sits the now-infamous garbage burner, whose architectural style is, um, non-descript. Directly across the freeway is Target Center -- a building whose original facade was completely scrapped after construction had already started because it was so hated by architecture critics. (The replacement is only one notch better.) Separating the site from the city is a row of gigantic parking ramps built in the 1980s and 90s to house the scores of carpools coming in on I-394 (snicker if you will). The concept drawings of the new Twinsville condos seem rather neutral toward their surroundings.

Ford Centre

The former Ford manufacturing plant (now Ford Centre).

About the only thing warehouse-y nearby is Ford Centre (the old Ford manufacturing plant) and the records storage building (which I think is being renovated into lofts). Echoing these would be appropriate, but the ballpark will certainly overwhelm everything else in the vicinity, so care must be taken. Better yet, the lack of close warehouses should be welcomed because it actually affords an opportunity.

So here are some reasons not to build a so-called "retro" park.

First, it's been done. Not once or twice, but eight times by my count (not counting three or more still on the drawing board). You would think we would have learned something from the concrete donut era. Nice as they are, after awhile they all start to look alike.

Watching the World Series, I tried to get a sense for the new Busch Stadium, and tried to detect what might make it different from the pack. Unfortunately, I have to admit that it looks utterly bland on the screen. Maybe it's different in person -- and I'm sure it's a great park -- but it would be nice if there were something visible to make it instantly distinguishable from all the others. I haven't seen this so far. (If you have, please add it below.)

Second, there were other classic stadium eras which did not involve brick, exposed steel girders, or asymmetry. I'm thinking specifically of Dodger Stadium, which is widely regarded as one of the gems in the game. It bears more than a passing resemblance to Met Stadium (which was built almost simultaneously), and there would be more sense in connecting our new park to that era than to the one before it (when the franchise was playing games in the rather homely Griffith Stadium).

Tiger Stadium

No arches. No brick. No girders. Classic.

Tiger Stadium is another classic which doesn't look like any other park. You could argue that what makes it a classic is its uniqueness. No other park is anything like it. There is great value in this.

Third, there are so many other possibilities for great designs. If you've never seen it, take a look at the design which was proposed for Labatt Park in Montreal. There is some serious creativity at work there, and there would have been no mistaking that park for any other. It also has a rather small footprint, suggesting that some of the principles might be appropriate here.

Fourth, fake history sucks. You can smell it a mile away. One of the reasons Camden Yards works is that there is real history built right into the park. Without that opportunity, anything you create will be artificial. One thing we have to admit is that the Twins/Senators ballpark history is pretty shoddy. Here's a chance to build something the right way -- without copying or faking anything.

Start by embracing a unique site which has been a transportation hub for 150 years -- and will become even more of a crossroads in the next century. Add to this the franchise's deep connection with Walter "Big Train" Johnson. Then mix in the idea that this franchise has started to win by redefining how small market teams work. This franchise has become a trailblazer.

Our new ballpark should be nothing less.


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I agree with you. As long as HOK doesn't get a hold of the contract (which I seriously doubt), the Twins park should be something of a renaissance in itself. Personally, I'd like to see a cantilever grandstand (similar to the Met) with the suites offered tucked neatly within. The history of the Warehouse District itself gives enough history to not need to build one (like Petco)

Posted on November 1, 2006 at 3:25 PM by Eric Highlight this comment 1

The ballpark needs to be named "Kirby Puckett Park."

Posted on November 12, 2006 at 4:54 PM by Peter A. Highlight this comment 2

what about something like the new guthrie?

Posted on November 19, 2006 at 8:56 PM by Highlight this comment 3

There was nothing wrong with the old met. They could name it metropolitan stadium again offer lots of places for tailgaiting like the old met have a scoreboard like the old met heck why not build a replica of the old metintersting thought but none of thats gonna happen. What probably is going to happen is A way to modern stadium with some big coporate name that caters to the people that have big bucks to spend leaving the average fan out of the picture what a shame.

Posted on November 29, 2006 at 02:30 AM by OldFan Highlight this comment 4

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