First some old business: There will, in fact, be two entrances to the Pro Shop. One entrance will be from the main concourse, just inside the turnstiles. The second entrance is just outside the turnstiles, accessible directly from the plaza.
It's tough to see from a distance, but Dan Kenney provided me with this fantastic close-up photo:
I think it's still fair to wonder if this design is the best possible for this highly-distinctive and highly-visible ballpark amenity. As I found out on my tour, the reasoning behind the decision is that the expanded plaza and Killebrew gate have been designed to be highly welcoming and to be the focus for people approaching the ballpark.
That seems reasonable. But I'm having trouble shaking the impression given by the actual design of the Pro Shop, which juts out into the plaza -- and almost into the street -- screaming, "Look at me!" It's easily the first thing the eye settles on as one approaches on foot.
The entrances are all the way around on the other side.
More than that, it has the look of an area you can walk right into from the street. The angular walls, glass, and very orientation (it points directly toward the Seventh Street/Second Avenue corner) seems to cry out, "Get in here now and try on a jersey!"
The Killebrew gate, though wide and welcoming in its own way, lays back and is essentially a negative space: the absence of a wall is the essence of the entrance.
This is certainly a minor issue, but I think there's money left on the table if people can't pull up on Seventh Street, park in one of the to-be-installed parking bays, and saunter in to the Pro Shop without traipsing all the way around to the other side. There will no doubt be some folks who come to assume -- erroneously, but just as I did -- that you have to have a ticket to a game before you can shop. If they saw a door from the street, it would be completely different.
As it is, they will need some sort of sign in the window directing people around to the other side. This little design misstep could be easily rectified. Perhaps one day it will be.
Back to Our Tour
Today it's the promenade. Call it the HERC Promenade if you wish, but I prefer to think of it as the Halsey Hall Memorial Promenade. That's the perfect name because it just feels like the right place to step out, light up a cigar and talk about pitching. (Don't know who Halsey Hall was? Shame on you.)
Right now there's a large opening in the main grandstand which allows equipment and supplies to come and go. That won't be there when the building is finished, but stroll from the main concourse through that opening now and you'll suddenly find yourself on a very wide and surprisingly pleasant walkway.
Looking north (toward Fifth Street and the LRT station).
Looking south (toward Seventh Street).
This will be just beautiful in the late afternoon sun before a night game.
As you can see, a fence is going up which will provide some separation from the HERC plant. It's being installed so early on the construction calendar because it also allows an easing of the controls which are in place to handle construction over an active railroad track. With a fence in place, less can go wrong.
Moving, and then building on top of, the railroad tracks turns out to be one of the most complicated and monumental portions of the entire project. And that's not from an engineering standpoint, but from a legal and contractual standpoint. There are so many things which can go wrong, and so many permissions and protections required that it's somewhat amazing that it was even attempted -- let alone completed without a hitch.
This is where the Ballpark Authority as an entity really shines. One of their main responsibilities is to pull together all of the stakeholders in a project like this and get them to play nice. No small feat.
When we walked up one level, I took this picture:
Though it's a little hard to imagine, one long-term goal of the ballpark project is to tie the downtown to the near north side -- to bridge a very wide and deep divide. That's the type of thing that the Ballpark Authority is charged with accomplishing. It is a noble but unenviable task.
Also on their list is to coordinate efforts to -- how shall I say it? -- de-emphasize the presence of the HERC plant itself. Most of this will be accomplished by Hennepin County (who owns and operates the plant), and the plan is rather elaborate.
Even as I walked the promenade, I could make out no more than the slightest odor from the plant. And, as Kenney explained, when there is any odor at all it's from the juice which drips out of the trucks as they enter and exit the facility -- not the operation of the facility itself.
To eliminate that last tiny bit of odor, there will be major cosmetic upgrades done to the ballpark side of the facility, including a new facade which will shield the big garage doors and the movement of the trucks. There will be steps to mitigate the truck juices, and then completely new landscaping between the ballpark/railroad tracks and the facility.
A berm will be built in the space where now there is only some scruffy brush, and additional foliage will provide a natural screen.
Of course, it would be great if the HERC just disappeared altogether. Kenney acknowledged that there are those would would like to "get out the Shubertwheels" and cart it away. But the reality is that it will still be there on opening day 2010, and for the foreseeable future.
In addition to the improvements along the promenade, there will be pedestrian improvements along the Seventh Street side just up the road from the ballpark. Not much detail is available yet on that.
Here are a few more images I got along the promenade:
The Northstar circulation building is starting to take shape.
"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 3033 found on this site. Click the image to be taken to the original post. A new list is created every 10 minutes.
Name that ballpark
Just some of the lumiaries who turned out for the unveiling (Terry is clearly thinking about Sidney Ponson).
This would be easy to miss, but I found it on a cart located directly behind the Batter's Eye seating on the upper concourse in center field.
Mauer steps in for the first time.
I realized I've never shown how the walkway over Seventh Street meets the A ramp
Click to enlarge.
The storage tunnel is barely visible at left behind that guy.
Awesome seat. Awesome sun. Awesome hitter. (Photo by Tony Voda, courtesy Jared Wieseler)
The walkway under construction in the parking lot just outside the loading dock.
Installation in action (Home Plate Box)
Did you notice the flowers?
Emergency access viewed in context
The former Ford manufacturing plant (now Ford Centre).
Ballpark elevation diagram, viewed from Fifth Street. (Click to enlarge.)
Items promoting the Twins 2014 All-Star Game bid. I got to bring one of these buckets home, and Noah got his first-ever taste of Cracker Jacks.
A little more imaginative is the circulation building for Northstar.
First, an overview. The base of the plaza here will meet the base of Sixth Street at Second Avenue.
That is pretty close... (Grandstand)
Another B ramp glimpse (don't loiter here!)
Viewed from a different angle, it seems fair to wonder is some of those seats will have slightly obscured views. Yet, if they're cheap, that's not a problem.
Rod Carew will greet you, but he's sorely in need of a home plate for reference. (Killebrew is too.)
I know these are giants bats with hops growing inside, but... Hmm...
Building the canopy is a spectacular sight.
Some of your fellow BPMers at a game in May of 2010 (we had almost the whole section)
Packed SRO beneath the notch.
Here are some less intrusive things things you can actually get at the ballpark.
Photo by Jeff Ewer
Photo by Tyler Wycoff
Here's what they do in April at Comerica Park
Killebrew taught, "Always make your autograph legible, boys."
The Puckett atrium fireplace is just barely visible at the far left.