A Football Stadium Takes Shape
August 31, 2008 11:55 PM
It's August, so it's inevitable that talk turns to football. I thought you might be interested to see this shot I took while waiting for the Park-N-Ride bus to the fair:
TCF Bank Stadium (click to enlarge)
I came toward the campus on the Franklin Avenue bridge, and was stunned to see the stadium from there -- rising above the neighborhood, already with a kind of sturdy dignity. What a sight.
Football stadiums interest me far less than baseball stadiums, as you've probably already guessed. A football field is a big rectangle, and every field is identical in shape to every other, whereas no two baseball fields are ever exactly the same. It's kind of like the difference between a Chips Ahoy and the chocolate chip cookies your mom makes.
An arch under construction.
A football stadium is vast and often symmetrical. The more massive, the better. The fan is held at arm's length from the game (or brought grotesquely into it by some linebacker's arm motions).
A baseball stadium, in contrast, curls around the game like a glove around a ball. There is a limit to how big the crowd should be, and a sense that the crowd is always part of the game (especially in wave-proof ballparks). What's more, the shape of the baseball stadium has a direct impact on the playing of the game (fences, foul territory, backgrounds, etc.). I like that.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that I dislike football stadiums. I just find them less interesting. It's a personal bias, nothing more.
But as football stadiums go, I have to admit that TCF Bank Stadium is quite a beauty. It's enough to make me look forward to homecoming of 2009, and to at least make an attempt to get a ticket.
In 1981, the last year of Memorial Stadium, I was a freshman at the U, living as a border in the Deke house next to Newman Center (rent: $106 per month). I will never forget the homecoming parade down University Avenue, nor the deafening din in the field house. It was a bit perplexing to a kid from Princeton, but electrifying nonetheless. I never got to see a game at Memorial Stadium, but they all seemed to spill over into the entire neighborhood and fill the campus.
While it isn't fair to call the Metrodome a failure (it came in on time and under budget, and has, after all, housed three major sports teams effectively and economically for 26 years), but I think characterizing it as a mistake is completely fair and accurate. Just what the hell were we all thinking?
The county of my birth!
I remember how the Dome was sold to the U students as just being "at the opposite end of the campus" from Memorial Stadium. It didn't take long to realize that the Dome was not anywhere near the campus -- at least psychologically.
There would be no more homecoming parades -- at least not like I'd witnessed in the fall of '81. And the football team would seem somehow removed from the day-to-day life of the University. They were the Gophers, but not my Gophers. They weren't really anybody's. And as they got worse, it got easier on campus to sort of forget they existed. (Same with the marching band -- not that they got worse, they did not -- but they were just plain not as visible, a very big loss.)
So I agree with those who say that this new stadium will be a boon to recruiting, and has the potential to return the team to greatness someday just by returning them to campus. By "greatness" I mean within the U of M student body -- a source of identity and pride regardless of how well they play.
I haven't really followed the design or construction of TCF Bank Stadium. But the facade already has a repetitive simplicity which really does say "college football". It also does a dignified job of referring to its predecessor (which stood just across University Avenue) without getting too kitschy. The inclusion of the names of all the counties (one per pillar opening) is really cool -- a very nice touch.
In a few years we will look back at the Metrodome days like a bad dream -- not actually sure that it ever really happened. That will be a great day.
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This page was last modified on January 21, 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
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OK, just how many servings per container?
The images on that wall appear to be of great Twins moments in history.
Main ticket window area
Do you need to know the score?
Wind veil framing
Chef stand and menu in the Carew atrium
Gate 29 Carew
A last look on the way out.
A whole bunch of guys working on something.
Photo by Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune
This view clearly shows the curve in the left field stands and the relationship of the first row with the playing field (no overhang to speak of in left).
The Metrodome has sure been tarted up.
This was actually taken from the top floor of the International Market Square.
v style="text-align: left; font-size: .6em;">The lot within the lot.
I'm too short to see over that wall. How about a little platform or something?
Scoreboard as viewed from Fifth Street.
OK, just how many servings per container?
The season was perfectly bookended by Mick Sterling on the plaza
Actual LRT tracks are now in the street, and buses now pass over them before entering the transit hub.
A slightly different angle, and you can see some of the structural elements.
The wall of brands at General Mills headquarters in Golden Valley (Source: RP)
Looking back toward the park from just beyond the north end of the Northstar platform.
Here's a closer look at the bullpen area. It's hard to tell for sure, but I think there is still an opening to the concourse right above.
This is the trapezoid (for lack of a better name) in right center. Be sure to notice section of seats just below the pavilion and above the fence (which I hadn't noticed before). For those who are interested, what looks like an old-style scoreboard is in fact a high-def video board which will look, at times, like an old-fashioned scoreboard.
8:32 PM The glare is gone. Elapsed time: 1 hour (approximately 3 innings).
This is why I get it, even if I don't like it.
Here's one big problem with a retractable roof: completely terrible seating in left. These scant few seats would have been tucked under the track. No sunshine, no open concourse, it was a terribly kludgy idea. With some hindsight, it's very clear that adding a retractable roof on this small site would have required compromises which would have just been too extensive to tolerate. Without it, the design was free to grow into something much more memorable.
At left, across the tracks by that pile of dirt is where the Northstar commuter train platform will be built, and where Twins fans will apparently NOT be able to get a train after night games. (For reference, that's the Fifth Street bridge, with the ballpark site just beyond it. The east corner of Ford Centre is just visible at the right edge of the picture.)
Despite what those signs say, every one of these places was selling either snacks or Yankee memorabilia out of its front door. Do you suppose anything like this will spring up anywhere near the new Twins ballpark?
Bench seating? (Click to see hi-res version.)
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
First Edition (1992)
Second Edition (2006)
Selected Bibliography - Surveys
Second Edition (1987)
Not a "Third Edition" exactly,
but it replaced the above title
(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
Book and six ballpark miniatures