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 3045 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Looking through the Oliva gate, you can see the outfield stands.
There are some great banners on fencing down Target Way. I'm not sure just who sees them.
Detail on the main gate, with Target Field sign
Click to enlarge.
Looking up Seventh Street (click to see what it looked like from the same spot in 1950)
You can finally see how the plaza will meet the street on the north side of this emergency exit tower (which will be converted to a regular entrance/exit)
This is very early in the day.
(Click to enlarge greatly)
The scoreboard also towers over the LRT tracks, which now are functional (though not open) all the way to the park -- and beyond!
Fenway has posts. Target Field does not. But...
Detail of the Puckett wall hanging
Signage for the concession stand which is available from the plaza (plaques are up on the fencing)
Dave St. Peter introducing the first physical models of the ballpark in June 2007
The Overlook, as seen by outfielders
Click to enlarge.
Winter approaches. But one day baseballs will fly where now there are cranes.
Good seats, but no scoreboard or sky.
The Fifth Street side is pretty busy. There's a small street entrance to the B ramp, then ticket booths and an entrance gate, a rare exterior section not covered in limestone, the wooden screen covering the circulation ramps, the administration building, and finally (just out of view) the interface with Northstar. All of that sits behind the LRT action. How pedestrians will interact with this side of the park is a great mystery to me. You know that Metro Transit won't be letting them cross the tracks anywhere but at either end of the block...
From about two blocks away you can finally get an idea of what it looks like. Just to my left (but out of view) was a valet parking stand where a limo was idling.
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.
Work on one of the side panels
Stairs and escalator down to the platform
Large staircases, a staple of recent Populous (nee HOK) projects, are all over the place.
Peering through Gate 34
Thome steps in.
This is amazingly close to completed. It's a short tunnel entrance ramp to 394 underneath the outfield stands.