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Wind Tunnel?

December 14, 2006 12:08 PM

I'm still waiting for more images of the concept design to surface. The Twins seem to be guarding this pretty closely, though I think that anything shown at a public meeting of a public body (i.e. the Hennepin County Board) must legally be accessible for public viewing. But the hunt goes on.

Meanwhile, I saw an interesting comment today over at The Hardball Times in an article about Petco Park:

During its first two years of existence, Petco was the single most difficult place to hit a home run in all of baseball. In 2006, it jumped all the way to the middle of the pack, to a level higher than had been seen during the Padres' final seasons at Qualcomm Stadium. Many possible explanations for this phenomenon exist. Two of the more likely are:

* buildings constructed beyond the outfield have changed wind patterns that may have kept more balls from leaving the yard;

* pitchers have grown accustomed to the way Petco Park plays and are more susceptible to making mistakes high in the zone because they believe—consciously or otherwise—that they can get away with it

It started me thinking about the air flow into and across the top of the new park. I'm not an expert in this regard, and would love to hear from someone with more understanding, but I'll take a quick stab.

Ballpark In a Trench

The rough outlines of our urban trench. (North is up.)

There is no question that the park is to be built in the middle of a sort of urban trench. The land is low-lying compared to everything around it because it was used for so long as a channel for railroad tracks. The playing surface will be roughly at the same level as the driving surface of I-394, which also runs down this same trench and actually served to widen it when it was built.

It's become fashionable to build ballparks in big holes, moving the playing surface well below the surrounding terrain. This is often sold as a means of controlling the effect of the wind, though it also aids significantly in managing the flow of people (upon entering, half go up and half go down). That's not an option here because of what lies beneath the site (an underground river, among other things).

The southeast "wall" of the trench is the row of parking ramps and warehouses which form the psychological edge of downtown. The northeast "wall" is also a row of old warehouses.

Since our prevailing winds come from the northwest, and the diamond looks like it will be oriented due east, the upper winds will certainly favor the left-handed hitters (as will the short dimensions in right).

The trench factor, on the other hand, has the potential to channel winds either from the southwest or northeast -- either of which will affect right-handed hitters.

Based on this simple look, it appears that no matter how you slice it, winds will increase the likelihood that this park will be a hitter's paradise.

The wild card, of course, is the potential for tall condo buildings built very nearby, most likely to the northeast. This is why the Petco article caught my attention. Our hitter's paradise could become a positive Shangra-La if big buildings block winds from the northwest and unleash the power from the right side of the plate.

Now, this is pretty rough, and I'd love to know if there is any other research out there on how nearby tall buildings affect the airflow around ballparks.

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I know this is off-topic, but Star-Trib sports columnist Sid Hartman reports that the entire Twins ballpark project may be in jeopardy because Hennepin County is having a very difficult time reaching a deal to buy the largest parcel of land on which the ballpark will sit.
Apparently, the owners of the land, knowing the time constraints involved in the project, are using this as leverage to extract a price that the county is saying it will not pay. County commissioner Mike Opat and Twins president Jerry Bell are quoted at length in the column.
Entrepreneur Bruce Lambrecht is involved in the limited partnership that owns the land. I recall reading that this group had negotiated a contingency with the county to sell the land, but the agreement expired at the beginning of 2005.
I realize that many of Sid's columns take on an alarmist tone, but it is the quotes -- on the record by Opat and Bell -- that are ominous.
Incidentally, taking the land by eminent domain may not be realistic, due to the lengthy legal process involved.

Posted on December 31, 2006 at 1:26 PM by Chris Highlight this comment 1

The ballpark should house a proshop entirly devoted to Twins merchandise. The left field corner seats seem to obstruct them from the score board. Whats obstructing it? The replica looks great. Building it with out a retractable roof seems better, making it seem like more of a ballpark. On Febuary 15th they officaly unvail the design, and I'll be there!!!

Posted on January 31, 2007 at 2:08 PM by sam krainak Highlight this comment 2

sorry sam, piece of shit bruce lambrecht delayed the official unvailing for the 15th, give us our land dbag we want to see our ballpark.

Posted on February 18, 2007 at 4:34 PM by Kevin Highlight this comment 3


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