There was a moment today when I realized that something special is happening here. I think that it's becoming common knowledge within the working groups -- even the political ones -- and all of the principals. The media doesn't quite get it yet, nor do those who persistently and annoyingly protest a cause that has already been lost. But all of you who come to this site probably do.
This ballpark is going to be amazing.
After I had this realization, I thought I better just cool down a bit and make sure it's not just the Twins fan in me talking.
So I looked back at the new Yankee Stadium renderings. Cold. Hollow. It is not what it wants to be, mostly because there is no history there. There's just no there there. It lacks all of its predecessor's dirty charms.
Two train stations
Next I looked again at Citi Field. It improves on the park it replaces, but it simply tries too hard to echo something that it has no business quoting. Ebbets Field doesn't belong to the Mets. Even in its attempted reverence, the new park is distant and rather plain. It evokes absence rather than resuscitating a bygone era.
On to Washington. I don't have to tell you that the design for the new Nationals park is a disgrace. A real mess. A painful missed opportunity. From its orientation to its facade to its systematic architectural disregard for all but the wealthiest patrons, the best you can say about it is that it's new and it's not RFK.
Out in Oakland they have the right idea. But they're taking the team out into the middle of nowhere and building a faux mini-city around it. One can't help but think of EPCOT (which I've been to many times, but which no one would mistake for the real world it imitates).
Back to Minneapolis, where we have the distinct pleasure of watching the most prolific ballpark architects in American sports history being forced to do something they've never done before. They must build a modern ballpark on a 19th-century-sized parcel of land. They are certainly rising to the challenge.
The typical HOK style has really become somewhat tiresome and predictable. There will come a day when fans of the game lament the second round of "cookie cutter" ballparks. But that won't happen here.
Despite the fact that the seating bowl does resemble all the others just a little too much, and the upper decks are a very long way from the action, the overall feel of this design is distinct and unusual. It is warm and attractive and coherent and really looks quite comfortable.
I don't much buy into the marketing hyperbole spewed out at events like today's. I know they have to use words like "iconic" (thankfully, they've dropped all the Wrigley references), but I wish they could simply let the work stand on its own. This design is good. It's damn good. And it's good in large measure because it does not try to evoke something else. It has its own brand new voice.
The Seventh Street facade
The whole idea of knotholes seemed like a gimmick to me. I'd seen the equivalent in Detroit and was deeply unimpressed. But the new animation shown today changes all that. Though I cannot imagine groups of kids gathering around these openings during a game (security would probably be on them in five seconds), their mere presence (and surprisingly large size) draws the outside in and extends the game beyond the walls of the park. This is a feature hailed from the early days of ballparks: wide connections with what was beyond their walls.
The stone facade is so much more than just an attractive material. There is a distinct language at work, and it extends all the way around the park (except for a weird area facing the entrance to the parking ramp that looks like a scary back alley). The building has something to say as a whole, rather than as a series of small, independent statements so often found in facilities like this. This is an important sign that there is actual "architecture" at work here, and not just "engineering" (valuable as that is, it tends to lack the artistic component).
The model still shows the Batters Eye Club, which is no longer part of the design.
The reconfiguration of the outfield seating solves a few important problems. Though I generally don't like upper deck seating in the outfield, there's something about this new look that I find appealing. The word "cozy" has been thrown about in the marketing, but I genuinely think it applies now. In the best of all possible worlds, you'd like people sitting behind the plate to see beyond the outfield walls to whatever is there (a feature that New Comiskey gets wrong in a big way, and Comerica gets right in a big way).
With this park, the orientation (a minor misfire which may have been unavoidable) has the bulk of the main grandstand looking out into not much of anything but a municipal parking ramp with a few square warehouses nearly visible beyond (attractive in their own way, sure, but hardly the best the skyline has to offer). The new outfield seating nicely solves that by clearly stating that the fans are really what we need to see beyond the outfield fence.
Here is the most recent outfield configuration, captured from the animation video. We probably shouldn't make too much of the logos seen on the scoreboard: Best Buy, Dairy Queen, Target, Pepsi, Dodge and Qwest...
We must give credit to HOK for being willing to wander outside of their box, but they might not have done it without the prodding of such a tiny site and such ambitious collaborators. The lesson of Washington (and Cincinnati and Arlington) is that the architect is only as good as the client. The process here has been a messy one, but the result, as seen today in this new batch of renderings and the scale model, has matured and improved to the point where we ballpark fans no longer need worry about the basics being covered. We're going to love this place even as we discover all the things we might wish were done differently.
There are many other elements to discuss: Advertising has appeared, bench seating can be seen in some areas, the scoreboard visibility is worth looking at, the planting/gardening bill will be huge, etc. I'll try to return in the next couple of days and discuss these.
I tend to expect the worst from "group think." Great ideas often get smothered or compromised into deep blandness. That hasn't happened here. This ballpark could set a new standard. Even if it doesn't, it's gonna be a fun place to hang out.
"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.
Typical standing room crowd which started early and lasted the entire game.
Staging for the next section (Home Plate Box)
Concrete molds are being removed!
Site of the proposed new Atlanta Braves ballpark. Look familiar?
The Northstar circulation building is starting to take shape.
There are no caddies in baseball.
Noah is checking out the ample leg room and truly exemplary sight lines.
Notice that the wooden-backed club seats are now covered by a green tarp for protection from the elements.
Look familiar? Unfortunately, just adding little balconies with cool angles will not offset the pervading ugliness.
Main concourse, looking south toward the area behind home plate.
I took this because of the view reflected in the store windows. (The store is cool too.)
The start of the VIP entrance and loading dock.
Photo by Jeff Ewer (Click to enlarge.)
Here's a closer look.
5:45 PM, section 327, row 9, standing: sunshine.
Town Ball Tavern balcony
For reference, here's that spot on the model.
Looking through the transit hub
Limestone will cover this pretty soon, but for now you can see where the escalator is.
A seating bowl comes into focus. Note that the netting has been installed on the foul pole. (Field Box)
It's a great view of the action, though standing here is somewhat discouraged.
Looking up Seventh Street to the west
The visitor's clubhouse at Target Field. (Photo by Javen Swanson)
Stairs and escalator down to the platform
Hot dawgs! Getcher hot dawgs!
The steel cage expands.
Did I mention that the cheerleaders looked pretty sharp?
The entrances are all the way around on the other side.