You've seen this image a thousand times. It's the image used in all the promotional materials, on the web, in the media, even on the "ballpark cards" I got at TwinsFest, for heaven's sake.
There's just one problem: There is absolutely no chance that this will be the view from the seats behind home plate. That's if the final ballpark orientation is the same as the preliminary one they've released.
In the first draft of the site plan, the first base line runs directly toward North 6th Street, and all of the tall buildings pictured in the concept drawing are south of 6th Street! In other words, none of those buildings would be visible between the foul poles. They would all be to the right of the drawing and well out of sight.
At right is a view from Google Earth which shows the site plan overlaid onto the map with the 3D building models being displayed. As you can see, well, there isn't much to see. (You can view the ballpark site, with the plan overlaid, interactively in Google Earth by clicking here.) The only people who will see the skyline will be sitting well down the third base line.
This means that, in the current configuration, only about 35% of the seats in the stadium will have a skyline view! Here's a bird's-eye view with sightlines drawn to the three signature skyscrapers. Only the area shaded green can see all of them. The yellow area can only see one or two. The non-shaded areas cannot see any skyline at all.
The good news is that the first draft may have little or nothing to do with the final site plan. The bad news is that the first draft was done by HOK, the presumed frontrunner to get the actual gig. Concept drawings are intended to get people excited about a project, but this is a little bit ridiculous. There's simply no way to get that beautiful view with the ballpark oriented as the designs show it. They will need to change the orientation if they want that. More on this in a bit.
When I asked Dave St. Peter about this, he replied that the orientation shown in the draft was preliminary, but also was considered the "preferred baseball orientation" for the site by HOK engineers. He added that this decision was partly made because of the need to protect the park from "prevailing winds." Though he didn't mention it, Major League Baseball's official rules give a specific recommendation for park orientation:
"It is desirable that the line from home base through the pitchers plate to second base shall run East-Northeast."
Notice that it is "desirable" but not "required." In fact, many parks have been built in the past decade which do not adhere to this recommendation. Take a look at this very handy page over at Ballparks.com and you will see that orientations -- new and old -- are all over the compass.
But what about this "prevailing winds" thing?
Not knowing much about meteorology, I put the question to someone who knows a whole lot. I sent the site plan to KARE 11 head meteorologist Belinda Jensen, and asked for her opinion about the park's orientation with regards to prevailing winds. She was kind enough to review it and sent me this response:
KARE 11's Belinda Jensen
It looks like they did a good job with the back of the stadium facing west-northwest-north. They will block most of the wind.
Our prevailing wind throughout the year is out of the northwest. The only time we have east winds is when a storm is approaching. Out ahead of a storm you get those and usually during baseball season those would be a warmer wind, usually humid out ahead of a front approaching from the northwest.
When the storm rolls through the winds would be out of the northwest, those would of course be the colder air behind the front in the shoulder seasons.
So she confirms that prevailing winds are from the northwest and can be shielded by placing the grandstand on the northwest corner of the site. But I think she may have been a bit generous in saying they did a "good job." Looking at the plan from overhead (at right), you can see that the park orientation is just about due east, meaning the bulk of the grandstand is due west. One side does face northwest, but due north is pretty exposed. So, from a wind standpoint, it's OK, but not exactly the best option.
The very best option may be to turn the park about 45 degrees toward the south. This would allow every seat to have a view of the skyline, while protecting the park better from the prevailing winds.
This would certainly require some creative engineering because the playing field must still have at least 400 feet to straight-away center. But creative engineering is what a site this small is all about.
A secondary option would be to go a full 90 degrees and have the park face due south. A larger percentage of seats would have great views, no changes would be required to the design of the playing field, and there is an added advantage in having the fielders with their backs toward the sun at all times. This is essentially the orientation at Comerica Park, and is especially advantageous this far north where low sun angles, especially at sunset, could be a problem.
Detroit got this part right!
I talked yesterday about my disappointment that the ballpark's design will be done in private between the Twins and their architects/engineers. The subject of ballpark orientation is one of the reasons. From the Twins' standpoint, this may already be a done deal. But the fans -- i.e. the public -- has a vested interest in the ballpark's orientation, and there will be much fan disappointment on opening day if more than half of the seats face the wrong direction.
"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 3037 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Solution for a hot night, just inside Gate 34 (that's a cool mist, by the way, not hot steam, which would be kind of cruel)
From the TV camera platform -- the view you'll see on TV
Good seats, but no scoreboard or sky.
A close-up of the rooftop party deck.
Banners on the parking ramp are a great touch. They help manage scale and turn a lemon into lemonade. On my way there today I passed the WCCO building and remembered how the Twins schedule used to be painted in giant form on the side of that building (which is no longer visible). Wouldn't that be a great thing to resurrect on the side of that ramp? A giant Twins schedule. I always thought that was cool.
They can put a camera just about anywhere. (Photo by Jeff Ewer)
This is the LRT path looking from the ballpark site (behind me) toward downtown. The line currently ends about two blocks up this street. This bridge over I-394 is also being partially rebuilt as part of the ballpark project.
Someone please get those poor people a drink of water. (Gate 34, after the game had started)
For those who have never seen it up close, that's what it looks like when steam comes out of the HERC plant.
Stairs down to the sidewalk from the skywalk over Seventh
The reverse angle shows that the signage will only partially obscure views from the top of the ramp. The wall is pretty high up there, so you'll need something to stand on, but it appears that this is one of the so-called "knotholes".
The right field foul pole seen against a backdrop of Butler Square (itself a site of great significance in the history of professional baseball in Minneapolis)
The lot within the lot.
Now looking north, the tracks emerge from beneath Seventh Street as freight tracks only. The Northstar line ends at the northwest corner of the ballpark. One day, however, you can bet that other passenger trains will approach from the southwest metro on these tracks -- if our legislators are smart and persistent, that is.
This is what it looked like during the first open house in March.
Life in the shadows
Plaza extension reaches toward First Avenue
Trampled, repaired, and re-trampled grass
Nathan greeting the other pitchers on the all-Metrodome team (October 4, 2009)
The renderings and concept model differ here. MOJO thinks this is the perfect place for a party deck. Dave St. Peter seemed to agree!
Bag checking at Ball Park Lanes was incredibly simple, as was the pick up later. The line was short and fast-moving.
Greatest spot in the city for cooking up some hot dogs. And would you kill for that grill?
Perhaps these very bold, Hitchcockian birds picking at left-over popcorn and peanuts were portents of what was to come.
Click to see the full-size image.
Scoreboard as viewed from Fifth Street.
We took refuge for a time in the Twins Pub where you can drink a beer (or just hang out) and listen to some ballpark tunes. The organ is decorated with a TC (of course) and what looked like drawings which Sue has received from kids.
The entry from the platform to the ballpark.
Spring of 1982 (click to enlarge greatly -- can you pick out Kent Hrbek?)