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.
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.
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).
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.
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This page was last modified on January 21, 2010.
"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 3042 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Discovered on the upper concourse!
Believe it or not, the actual outfield wall will be about where this fence is now!
This is the back of the Cisco Field scoreboard, showing video to folks out on the plaza.
Greatest spot in the city for cooking up some hot dogs. And would you kill for that grill?
Another piece of the neighborhood puzzle: the Northstar platform.
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:
That's Tony Oliva checking out ballpark construction from the roof of Target Center.
Just think: It could look like this!
Click to see the full-size image.
The Metrodome hot dog vendor. (Source: RP)
Many people will approace the park from this direction and it's a pretty great first glimpse. It features all the design elements in modestly condensed form, and still manages to look like a ballpark (instead of something else).
Notice that the wooden-backed club seats are now covered by a green tarp for protection from the elements.
The glorious Gate 34
The dessert carts came out earlier, and looked even better than last year.
The windows have started going in.
View from the Overlook
The heretofore unseen north facade (click to enlarge). Does it look like a ballpark? And what's with the bamboo?
Construction of the stands is moving from left to right in this image.
Emergency access viewed in context
(Click to enlarge.)
Frost on the pumpkins, snow on the plaza
Though there's nothing there now, you have to believe they'll find a way to add a party deck up there at some point.
This is the Metropolitan Club as viewed from the future Ballpark Authority office space.
The admin building (note TF logo on banner)
The main ticketing area beneath the restaurant.
A seating bowl comes into focus. Note that the netting has been installed on the foul pole. (Field Box)