A Great First Impression
April 12, 2007 10:32 PM
Wow, what a day. Wow, what a ballpark. There's so much to write that I truly don't know where to begin.
But I must get this out right away: These drawings show vision and imagination. They show consideration for the game and the fans. My first impression is almost wholly positive.
The biggest thing that grabs me is how much it doesn't look like any other ballpark in the majors -- outside or inside. This is most definitely not a cookie cutter design. There are aspects which are obviously descended from features at other very recent HOK-designed parks. In fact, the HOK style is all over the place. But it's mitigated by the needs of the site, which seems to have forced some genuine creativity.
Just some of the lumiaries who turned out for the unveiling (Terry is clearly thinking about Sidney Ponson).
There appear to be no forced attempts at fake history. It's closer to say that this park tries to establish itself as a model for parks of the future rather than an echo of parks in the past. I've argued for this approach for as long as I've been writing about ballparks, and I was very relieved to see nothing cloyingly phony about the design.
From a game perspective, I don't think anyone will be able to call this a bandbox. The projected playing field dimensions (339-377-404-367-328) are respectable, the fence heights are a little taller than we may wish in spots (good luck robbing homers on the 23-foot fence in right -- maybe a ladder!), but it does appear to meet the definition of a neutral park at first glance. The wind patterns are a wild card which could change this, and it's hard to know how much wind has been considered in the design. Average temperature and relative humidity will also be determining factors, and the jury is still out on these as well.
The limestone theme is apparently carried to the area behind home plate. This will look great -- and distinctive -- on TV. But watch out for those foul balls!
Most importantly, many of the principles of Philip Bess' City Baseball Magic are really embodied in this design. Not only are his transportation principles met (simply by site selection alone), but his ideas about fan proximity to the field and patron circulation appear to have been incorporated. This is most obvious in the almost total lack of external circulation (which appears to be primarily incorporated into the concourses). It's yet to be seen whether residential and retail space pops up nearby (another of Bess' key principles), but the chances are really quite good.
"Hey, Ma, it says here we go in at gate 34. Must be all the way around on the other side!" Seriously, though, this is a really inspired idea.
There are some really nice small touches in the design:
- Gates numbered for Twins greats (a fan suggestion)
- Minnesota greenery in the batter's eye (a fan suggestion)
- Knotholes along 5th Street for free glimpses of the game (a fan suggestion)
- Heated playing field (no flame-throwers or snow-outs here)
- 360-degree view of the game from the concourses (now becoming common in ballparks, but not easy to create)
- Whether intentional or not, the left field pavilion echoes Met Stadium nicely
- Heated indoor seating and viewing areas (other than suites)
- Trees incorporated at key spots (such as the pedestrian bridge over I-394)
- The view when approaching the main entry gates (from the pedestrian bridge) will be spectacular!
Earl Santee, principle architect for HOK Sport, presents some concepts while Mike Opat listens
...and there are a few initial quibbles:
- A fair amount of homers will land in the trees or bullpens (instead of fans' gloves)
- Nothing is shown for the roof of the parking ramp (the city of Minneapolis really needs to step up here)
- The concept of the "split upper deck" appears to have been dropped (in some of the renderings)
- The lighting is built into the "canopy" rather than in towers (which offered an opportunity for Twin-ism)
- No field-level seating in the outfield (viewing through the fence)
- Two levels of suites push the upper deck into some pretty serious nose-bleed territory (the drawings do not contain dimensions, so this is just an impression at this point)
- Horizontal circulation in the seating areas appears to have been sacrificed because of space
- Still potentially not enough women's restroom fixtures (1.5:1 vs. 1.33:1 in the Metrodome, should approach 2:1)
...and a few areas of curiosity not yet satisfied:
- How will the rail stations be integrated?
- What about heat for the fans not in enclosed areas?
- What does that entry tower at the north (left field) corner look like? What function?
- What's the average number of seats per row?
- Average leg room?
- Average (or uniform) seat width?
- Aisle width in seating bowl?
- Seating color scheme?
- Facades on the 5th Street side and garbage burner side (which will be visible when approaching from the northeast)
There were some grand proclamations (which have a chance of being accurate):
"Minnesota's new ballpark will be an inviting landmark and an intimate venue..."
"...we will build one of the great urban ballparks in America."
"The ballpark connects with fans whether they arrive by foot, bike, bus, car, light rail or commuter rail."
...and a bit of hyperbole:
"The new ballpark will reflect Minnesota's dynamic blend of urban sophistication and outdoor vitality."
"...a cosmopolitan expression of Minnesota's natural beauty..."
"...an outdoor baseball fan's dream..."
...and even something truly puzzling:
"Fissures, or gaps, in the stone enclosure...will create unique viewing opportunities..." Huh? Are we to measure the life expectancy of this park in geologic time?
Look at all those flag poles! But wouldn't the one from Met Stadium look great just inside the gates in the middle of that entrance plaza?
I also heard plenty of references to Wrigley Field today. Of course, everyone wants to believe they're getting another Wrigley, but that's not what this park will be. Nor would we really, in our heart of hearts, want it to be.
What we've wanted -- well, at least what I've wanted -- is a great park to call our own. Not a copy of, or an emulation of, or an evocation of, or even a reference to somewhere else. Nothing multi-purpose or utilitarian or plain (or cement or blue or domed or even roofed). Minnesota is unique. Our team and its organization is unique. The ballpark should be unique, and I think this one looks like it may very well be.
Today's been a whirlwind! At one point today I found myself standing between Paul Molitor, Terry Ryan, Dave St. Peter, Jerry Bell and Gardy! At another point I found myself standing in front of a KARE-11 camera (Shane and I were featured in the same story!). Carl Pohlad looked me in the eye, for heaven's sake (and smiled a little, I think).
Thanks for stopping by for this big day. Please stop back over the next few days as I'll try to draw out some details which are worth considering.
Special note to anyone who was hoping I'd profile all the other potential ballpark sites when it looked like this one was going to fall through: My first alternate was always the garbage burner site, with the land next to the Mall of America as a close second. But I absolutely loved the idea of building on the K-Mart site in south Minneapolis, in part because it's close to my house, and in part because it's just across Lake Street from where Nicollet Park used to stand. Much as I would have loved to delve into these sites some more -- as well as a dark horse site at Snelling and I-94 in St. Paul (the Metro Transit land on the NE corner)-- I had some indications that things were going to get settled, and decided it was best not to stoke that flame any more...
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This page was last modified on January 21, 2010.