Regular readers here know that, technically, this is all old news. In fact, the most striking thing about today's unveiling of the final Target Plaza design is how similar it is to the bootleg images I discovered a few months ago.
You are forgiven for wondering whether architect Tom Oslund is, in fact, a visitor from the future.
By now, the big ideas are all well known:
1. Topiaries (tall metal planters), shaped vaguely like the barrels of bats, will have vines planted within them.
2. Some of these vines will likely be hops.
3. A gigantic sculpture, known as a "wind veil", will cover the B ramp wall.
4. Lots of seating has been added.
5. Canopies will provide some shade for the plaza seating areas.
6. There will be a bronze sculpture of a baseball glove, designed to be climbed upon by kids and highly photographed by parents.
7. Various other planters, at least some shaped vaguely like pitchers mounds, will replace the rather cold bins of the original design.
8. A "player and fan appreciation wall" will feature the name of every single Twins player in history, as well as space for fans to buy their way onto it (much like similar "buy a brick" promotions at other new stadiums).
9. LED lights will permeate everything, allowing various lighting conditions and features.
10. The plaza will connect to First Avenue along the edge of Target Center along Sixth Street.
11. The ubiquitous Target logo will be found mainly in the pavement.
Not mentioned, but still verified as true, is that the original Met Stadium flag pole will be placed at the entry to the walkway at the corner of First Avenue and Sixth Street.
There's no question that this design improves on the one originally unveiled with the ballpark design (and model). In fact, there's really a whole lot to like about these ideas. As a gateway to the ballpark, I think it's clearly a winner.
Less clear is how it will work on days when nothing is happening at the ballpark. In fact, calling this "green space" is wishful thinking, at best.
There is some grass, but it covers maybe 5% of the plaza area. Most of the surface will still be concrete, pavers or a similar surface. My hunch is that not many people will trudge down there on their lunch hour to sit around the topiaries.
If part of the appeal is supposed to be off-day use, then comparisons to Peavey Plaza (and other such open spaces in downtown Minneapolis) are inevitable. In that regard, this is a non-starter. By simple virtue of its location, it has none of the casual appeal of Peavey. And without a water element, it's just hard to imagine it as a destination all on its own.
There is the possibility that the wind veil will draw the curious. At the press conference, Jerry Bell's excitement was evident, and it sure does look cool. Here's a video sample from another installation:
Despite the coolness factor, I can't help but notice that it doesn't exactly conceal the building on which it is mounted, but just sort of adds visual interest. Personally, I don't have anything against big banners as a solution, but this is definitely much more sophisticated.
It's fair to say that the design has a distinct sophistication about it. It is classy, tending just a little bit toward uppity -- without actually getting there. It's certainly another reason why Target Field will stand out among other ballparks of its era.
I want to spend the next few days looking at its various elements.
Being a bit new to this, I'm finding myself fascinated by the way the media interacts with stories like this, and the people behind them. For example, here's one take that contains this editorial observation:
Unfortunately, Bell marred the proceedings with an off-the-cuff snotty comment to reporter Randy Furst of the Star Tribune that reinforced the club's off-putting smugness about the ballpark project.
In their initial presentations Wednesday, neither the Twins nor Target announced what the Plaza design will cost, or whether public money was being tapped. Target, remember, never revealed what it paid for the ballpark naming rights, an odd bit of secrecy for a public project of this magnitude. And last month, Target laid off 600 employees in the Twin Cities while reducing its work force by 9 percent. Furst asked how the companies could justify spending on frills at a time of economic crisis. Only then did Bell step in to estimate the design pricetag.
When Furst asked a follow-up later, Bell rebuked him for continuing to ask about costs and added, "Not every company is bankrupt," a shot at the Star Tribune's well-publicized financial woes. Many people cringed. Someone with a quick wit might have suggested the Twins spend less money on vines and veils and more on a third baseman, but that's for another story.
But there's no denying that his question had a cutting quality to it. I didn't get the exact wording, but let me paraphrase it as I understood it: How can you justify spending so much money on this type of BS when people are losing their jobs everywhere?
To the left, out of view, was a row of guys in very nice suits. Most I did not recognize.
As the MinnPost entry implies, Furst is probably among those whose jobs are in jeopardy right about now.
But it's essentially the same as asking Hennepin County why they are helping build this thing in the first place. Or asking Target why they are paying to put their name on it while laying off hundreds of employees. The world just doesn't work in the way that the question implies. More plainly, the question has an axe to grind right in the middle of it.
Bell's response, however, equally misses the point (his own, and the one the reporter was trying to make). If you're gonna build a ballpark, you want it to be as great as possible. If you're gonna build a civic amenity, you want it to enhance the city as much as possible. (I would have also accepted a mention of spending as stimulus. It would have at least made for a better joke.)
Exchanges like that rarely get reported. In fact, the MinnPost article is the only one I found which mentioned it. The rest of the media pretty much took the press release, added a few generic video clips, and called it a day.
Regrettably, I did not get Randy's question on video. But I did get Bell's comeback, which is found at the end of this clip, in which Dave St. Peter discusses the player/fan appreciation wall:
Bell actually got a pretty big laugh, but that was mostly from the guys in nice suits standing behind the reporters.
Here are a couple more clips which will give you a feel for the flavor of the event. This is architect Tom Oslund reading from the press release:
Here's Oslund unveiling the design with somewhat less enthusiasm than you might expect from the guy who created it:
While acknowledging that Oslund has done a pretty great job on this design, he didn't appear to be much of a baseball or Twins fan. At one point in that video he says that there could be a light show when somebody hits a home run -- but only for "the home team" of course. It made me wonder if he would be able to put a name to any one of those "home team" hitters...
Pat Borzi and Steve Berg make a comment within a comment when describing the Twins as smug about their new ballpark.
Why they would be smug is easy to understand. Everything is progressing smoothly, they're getting pretty much exactly what they want at every turn, and the reviews from every corner are pretty good. Modesty and humility don't exactly ooze out of half-billion dollar construction projects (or professional sports, for that matter). Phony humility would probably be worse anyway.
But I will admit that, while I was listening to today's talk about a front door for the fans, while standing there in the ballroom of one of the fanciest hotels in town, I began to wonder just how many "common fans" will be heading out to this ballpark. Could the smugness Borzi and Berg detect be actually due to a "we've hit the jackpot" air which has begun to hover over this project?
Has this project started to slip from a ballpark of the common fan to a ballpark of the wealthy (fan or no)? Will I take my kids there or be taken there by somebody trying to sell me office supplies?
I guess I'm not even sure this would be a bad thing, except for the reality that some of us here might be ultimately excluded.
It's not a conclusion I've reached, but a question I've begun to ponder more and more.
Tomorrow, we'll get at some more of the plaza details.
"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.
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.
Dan Kenney, my tour guide
Discussions in progress on some very brown grass...
Looking north (toward Fifth Street and the LRT station).
This is the staircase (ramp?) leading up to the trapezoid. Nice flagpole too. You'll be able to find me and Ben McEvers at the base of that flagpole on opening day in 2010!
Looking up Fifth, with LRT tracks and B ramp at left
In the top of the 9th, the sun hit our backs and summer took one last long look.
Click on this photo to see what it looked like on this spot 101 years ago (I'm not kidding)
Another view of the escalator, which apparently comes preassembled!
You'll be able to park here for a quick stop at the Pro Shop or ticket window.
Some of Minneapolis' finest checking out the construction through a spot where a knothole will be one day.
Here's a detail from the above image, showing the LED strips up close.
Main concourse, looking south toward the area behind home plate.
Directly above gate 6 "Oliva" on the Club level.
Heaters over standing room (the backs of the retired number circles visible above)
Go get 'em, boys!
The right field overhang as seen from Seventh Street (with dude)
The view down Sixth Street toward the ballpark site. A pedestrian bridge will extend this street right into the main entrance of the park. The regrettable facade of Target Center is on the left. Butler Square is on the right. Click on the image to see what it looked like on this very spot about 100 years ago.
The Metrodome hot dog vendor. (Source: RP)
Love the red flowers -- just like the original concept drawings. That NEVER happens.
(Click to enlarge greatly)
Looking northeast from the ballpark site (Source: LP)
Click to see the whole page from this 1971 program.
Gate 29 Carew (note the walkway above open to the street where you can shout down at your lost friends to tell them where to meet you)
The start of the VIP entrance and loading dock.
(Click to enlarge.)
Now from the inside looking at the same area.
Ballpark elevation diagram, viewed from Fifth Street. (Click to enlarge.)
This view looks up Fifth Street toward downtown and shows how the LRT tracks sort of snuggle up to the ballpark.
Doors directly to the concourse, and a view of the stands beyond
The finished product.
Best view available from the "B" ramp.
I finally found the corner of TF dedicated to the Senators. What a wonderful sight.