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Spring Swing (Part 3)

May 8, 2009 11:20 PM

Here are a few more images from my lengthy walking tour around the ballpark the other day.

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I believe that the truck is parked in one of the curb cutouts which are being installed to facilitate ticket sales and traffic calming.


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The process of building the canopy is really amazing to watch.


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A portrait of the 573 Club.


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These openings will facilitate access to the catwalks which run throughout the canopy.

Block E = Conservatory II

If you walk the skyway in the vicinity of the ballpark, you probably have walked through the Block E mall once or twice. Maybe you've stopped there for a cookie or some other snack. I doubt that you bought a book there, though you could have at one time. And if that's where you buy your video games, start looking elsewhere.

The question is only whether this mall is just rapidly dying or already dead.

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A sign that your mall is all but dead: roped off escalators. (This is at about 4:00 PM on a weekday.)

Some of you may remember The Conservatory, a much-heralded and highly ornate shopping mall which graced the Nicollet Mall for a scant few years in the late 80s and early 90s.

Don't look for it. It's long gone. And I'd provide a link to a photo or two, or maybe a profile, but this mall was so incredibly unsuccessful and short-lived that it was torn down before its 10th birthday, and people are quite happy to have it erased from Minneapolis' collective memory. (It did, however, give us Tejas, a great restaurant which relocated to 50th and France when The Conservatory closed. My brother was a waiter there, which is where he met and was befriended by envelope magnate Harvey McKay. McKay was, after all, the type of clientele that The Conservatory hoped to attract.)

UPDATE: CJ has provided an appropriate link.

The main problem was that it was built with a "clever" design that was intended to force foot traffic into certain patterns which would supposedly increase sales at the various stores. Instead, all it did was cause people to get lost inside it (which I did once), and it drove customers away shaking their heads (with all their money still in their pockets too).

Block E isn't quite that bad, but it's bad.

I parked at a meter on Sixth and looked for a mall entrance. There is none on Sixth. There are entrances to individual stores, but no mall entrance! (For the record, there's no mall entrance over on Seventh either.) I walked over to First Avenue, and couldn't find a mall entrance there either, but I did find a door which says "Skyway" above it. Entering there, and snaking up a parking-ramp-grade stairwell, I came to this:

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Which way to the skyway? Really??

Yes, I can see the skyway through the windows -- it's right there -- but I can't get to it. Instead, I'm funneled around past the theater box office (with a lone, lonely employee serving exactly no customers) and into an open courtyard where I'm greeted by the roped-off escalators seen above.

I remember trying to do the reverse one time -- that is, getting from the skyway to the entrance to the Graves Hotel. It was touch-and-go for a while whether I was going to have to go back to Target Center, head down to the street, and cross First Avenue at a crosswalk. Ultimately, I had to find the elevators because both an escalator and a stairwell that might have been helpful were roped off for "security" reasons.

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From an earlier visit: Don't bother with those escalators either. They were also roped off. And how about a bench? Or a planter? Or even a trash can? That woman is doing the only thing she can: leaning up against a post to do her texting.

I also remember buying a cookie here with Noah and discovering that there are no places to sit anywhere in this courtyard. Not a single bench or even a planter with a ledge. Only if you're a paying customer at Applebee's or -- God help me -- Hooters will you find a place to sit. (Mrs. Fields does have a couple of tiny tables to one side, allowing all cookie-eating family members to get a clean view into Hooters. I'm not a prude, but come on. And for the record, most of the eateries appear to have at least some private seating. There just is no seating in the common area anywhere. It positively screams, "Keep moving. Get out of here.")

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I suppose that one day my son will graduate from Mrs. Fields to Hooters. At least he won't have to travel too far. *Shudder*

I know that the plaza is the "front door" to the ballpark. But Block E is the front door to the plaza.

Minneapolis ought to be more than a little embarrassed by this turkey. I find myself hoping that the same forces which took down The Conservatory come into play here before too long.

More ballpark pix tomorrow.

Comments


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Great post Rick. This is why you are the King. Right on the money RE: Block E. It is embarrassing for Minneapolis and gives a terrible impression of the Twin Cities to downtown visitors/businessmen/tourists etc. Cleaning up Hennepin Ave and all the scum that loiters there at all hours of the day/night would be a great step in the right direction. I wonder if the 81 games a year and the potentially 40K people will help turn around Block E and/or start to fill the growing vacancies there.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 01:02 AM by Max Highlight this comment 1

pictures of conservatory courtesy of Strib columnist James Lileks. click name. same columnist called Block E "Kafkadale" a more apt name... I couldn't find.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 01:41 AM by CJ Highlight this comment 2

I should have known that James Lileks would have had The Conservatory on his amazing site.

I've been a fan of his since I was a student at the U. And I see that we think alike on this subject. (Click my name.)

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 02:09 AM by Rick 3

those escalators are roped off because they go straight into the ShoutHouse. They are open when the ShoutHouse is open. And there were benches right near that sign not too long ago. Nonetheless, a poor design.

I really can't stand when people talk about, "cleaning up the scum" on Hennepin Ave. They have cops out there looking for illegal stuff. But it's not illegal to look like scum and make suburbanites feel uncomfortable.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 08:04 AM by Elston Gunn Highlight this comment 4

oh it may not be illegal, but its a horrible part of the city, that one block, where it should be successfull, its not and why, well poor design and bottom line, SCUM standing out doing absolutly nothing, but whatever, if they dont care about there own city where whey live, then i blame them as well!

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 08:36 AM by roro Highlight this comment 5

the core of both st. paul and minneapolis are car-focused. until pedestrians feel that there is something downtown worth spending a day at, failures like the conservatory and block E will continue imo. the potential of having a transportation hub at the ballpark could be a start of something good, but there needs to pedestrian-friendly spaces and avenues down there. perhaps nicollet can be a pedestrian and bike-only mall. allowing buses to drive on the mall is like having a beautiful yard with a big mangy dog running down the middle of it pooping all over the place.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 08:53 AM by yeahklye Highlight this comment 6

Great post, Rick. One thing I've been thinking about...

With the amount of time (thus, labor) they have been spending on the canopy, it had better be a success in both a fan experience and architecture sense. It looks like it could be 9-10 months of labor on that thing from when the first supports were put up to when it will be complete. That is a lot of $$$. I like the look of it thus far, but it has become very obvious that it had to be a pretty large piece of the pie in terms of the total ballpark cost.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 10:00 AM by AJ Highlight this comment 7

Completely agree with Kyle.

Especially with the advent of the LTR system I really don't understand why they allow buses to drive down Nicollet Ave. There are many good restaurants on the avenues with outdoor seating but its nearly impossible to enjoy yourself with the constant noise from the buses.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 10:47 AM by Wanda Phillips Highlight this comment 8

block e does suck, at this point just have to hope that some interesting places see the impact of thousands of baseball fans in such close proximity and take some of the vacant space. the theaters are nice to new movies in a state of the art room because there is so much less of a crowd than a suburban multiplex. but i'm wondering how long the movie theaters will last. i've seen movies there a few saturdays recently and it's pretty sparse. the only time the complex buzzes with activity is if there is an event at target center. block e is the city's albatross but we have to make of the best of it. the hotel is doing well from what i've read.

what strikes me is how great the first ave street vibe will on a gamedays. all the bar and restaurants, the chammps alley. all of this just a block away from a stadium entrance. it's going to be awesome.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 10:58 AM by tim Highlight this comment 9

You know, as long as there's been something standing on Hennepin between 6th & 7th, there have been people hanging out there that drew complaints. Drunks from Moby Dicks, punks that hung out at McDonalds, perverts that read "dirty" magazines at Shinders. Now people are scared of the "scum"? Heh.

Seriously, Block E was a bad idea from a "let's revitalize downtown" standpoint. It offered very little in originality or uniqueness, and even less in good urban design or a nod to its historic neighbors (save City Center, of course). But the city's stuck with it, for now. And I hope the ballpark is able to make it some-what salvageable.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 11:06 AM by Andy G Highlight this comment 10

it's 'klye' not 'kyle'

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 2:08 PM by yeahklye Highlight this comment 11

you should change it, i like kyle better

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 2:12 PM by Wanda Phillips Highlight this comment 12

oh well since YOU like it better well then i'll just change my doppelganger. while i'm at it, maybe i should change my ssn, wp.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 2:31 PM by yeahklye Highlight this comment 13

you should change your name to 'wilson phillips'

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 2:35 PM by yeahklye Highlight this comment 14

I'd probably get a lot less tips if my name was Wilson

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 2:57 PM by Wanda Phillips Highlight this comment 15

I actually think Wilson would bring in more $$ for ya.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 3:40 PM by Locker Highlight this comment 16

I remembered reading an article about how to improve Block E awhile back, so I did a little internet searching and found it. Click my name for the story. It is from October of 2007 by Linda Mack at MinnesotaMonthly.com. Her gives her opinion about what Block E's flaws are and how those flaws could be remedied. There is also a rendering.

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 3:54 PM by Jeff Highlight this comment 17

Again with the references to dancing Wanda, as I said before we need pictures to prove you truly are a dancer...

Just kidding...or am I...

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 8:36 PM by Josh Highlight this comment 18

damn it josh! stop being so midwest passive-agressive and just ask wanda phillips out already!

:-)

Posted on May 9, 2009 at 11:11 PM by Betaband Highlight this comment 19

Everyone focuses on Block E but there are really two structures that make that portion of Hennepin Ave. intimidating. Block E is one. City Center is the other. On one side you have a Block E building that provides no windows onto Hennepin Ave. On the other side, City Center has a few sparse windows from the restaurant and then a parking deck above that. It just looks terrible. I always feel like I'm inside a tunnel on that portion of Hennepin Ave.

Fixing Block E isn't enough. Something has to be done on the east side as well.

Posted on May 11, 2009 at 1:41 PM by David Highlight this comment 20

About the Bus traffic. When I was a kid, one bus memory was sitting in a car at the stop light Downtown, light turns green and the bus next to us starts out with a huge black cloud of exhaust flooding into the (un-aircondioned)car. Only a few years earlier it would have the ultimate Green tecnology, electric street car with the River supplying the power. Too bad politics and short sightedness was so prevalent.

Posted on February 1, 2010 at 10:06 AM by hans Highlight this comment 21

Oh, about the Conservatory, Does anybody know what happened to the Marble staircases (8th st & 9th st) at each corner on Nicollet going down to the lower level? If they were scrapped it would be a travesty

Posted on February 1, 2010 at 10:15 AM by hans Highlight this comment 22


This page was last modified on January 16, 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.


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)



Cleveland



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.



Future home of the Met Stadium flag pole


Glossary

BPM - Ballpark Magic

BRT - Bus Rapid Transit

DSP - Dave St. Peter

FSE - Full Season Equivalent

FYS - Fake Yankee Stadium (see also: NYS)

HERC - Hennepin Energy Resource Company (aka the Garbage Burner)

HPB - Home Plate Box

HRP - Home Run Porch

LC - Legends Club

LRT - Light Rail Transit

MBA - Minnesota Ballpark Authority (will own Target Field)

MOA - Mall of America

MSFC - Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission (owns the Metrodome)

NYS - New Yankee Stadium

SRO - Standing Room Only

STH - Season Ticket Holder

TCFBS - TCF Bank Stadium

TF - Target Field

Selected Bibliography - Analysis
 


(1993)
 


First Edition (1992)
 


Second Edition (2006)
 


(2008)
 

Selected Bibliography - Surveys
 


(1975)
 


Second Edition (1987)
 


Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(2000)
 


(2000, large coffee table)
 


Original edition (2000, round)
 


Revised edition (2006, round)
 


(2001, medium coffee table)
 


(2002, small coffee table)
 


(2003, medium coffee table)
 


(2004, very large coffee table)
 


(2006, very large coffee table)
 


Combines the previous two titles
(2007, medium coffee table)
 

Selected Bibliography - Nostalgia
 


(1992)
 


Book and six ballpark miniatures
(2004)
 

Complete Bibliography

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