Tonight’s the night. 20 Prospect Jr. and I will be making our first visit to Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins. I plan to bring along the camera, and hope to post my impressions of the inside of the place later this week. Game time temp should be in the upper 60′s with an outside chance at a thunderstorm. I guess we’ll test that personal commitment to outdoor baseball right away.
It should be an interesting experience. So far I have only seen the outside of the stadium. That is, I have seen as much of the outside as can be seen. It’s kind of like not being able to see the forest for the trees. The stadium is wedged into a block of land, between two major access roads for downtown on the North and South, and a Parking ramp, and the County Garbage burner on the East and West. I can’t say it’s a prime piece of property.
When it was announced that this would be the location of the new stadium, I think everyone in town thought “there’s no way you can fit a ball park on that site”. The land was previously occupied by a parking lot. Before the stadium was approved, the Twins had been haggling with the State for money to build a new ballpark for the better part of a decade. Lot’s of proposals were floated over the years.
There was the downtown stadium on the St. Paul Riverfront…
There was the riverside Stadium in the historic Milling District…
And there were various blue sky proposals to put it on the same site as the metrodome, and/or in a suburb.
The Twins were adamant that the stadium needed to be downtown. And by downtown, they meant “Downtown Minneapolis”. I am still perplexed how they ended up at this site though, in an industrial part of town usually designated for garbage burners, homeless shelters, and other less desirable businesses.
Of course, they aren’t advertising it as being in the Industrial Near Northside. Instead they are touting it as being in the “Warehouse District”, which I suppose it is in the sense that it sits on the very edge of the warehouse district. This is a neighborhood of warehouses that grew up around the old Union Train Station on the northern edge of downtown, back in the day when people made products, and needed such things as inventory. The train station closed, and was torn down years ago, and the empty warehouses became home to artists, bohemians, and others seeking low rent, and high ceilings. Since the early 90′s it’s been on the rise with new condo’s, and restaurants, and the like. Rich folks are always willing to drop big money to live in the brick and wooden hulks of old warehouses, which is kind of odd when you think of it.
We don’t build warehouses anymore. Now we have “distibution centers” and they are usually giant metal barns along the interstate outside of town. So where will the Yuppies of 2050 choose to live? Abandoned Malls? No, too suburban. My guess is that by 2050 when our oil has run out and the automobile is defunct, all those gray concrete parking ramps will become the “Loft Condominiums” of the next generation of hipsters.
But I’m digressing…
The new park is hard to actually see, except from the west, looking across the expanse of low, one story industrial buildings. Approaching the park from the North, or East, you are right up against it before you have a chance to see it. Because of the size of the lot, there was no room for a setback, so the stadium sits right up against the sidewalk on three sides, and against the parking ramp on the other. The architects really had to work hard to fit the park into the site. In the end, they ran the train tracks for the new commuter train right under the ball park to save space.
It’s kind of unique in that sense, compared to some of the more suburban parks like Miller Park in Milwaukee, and Citizens Bank Field in Philadelphia, with their wide expanses of parking lots surrounding them. It also differs from other downtown parks, that were built into their sites with some setback, and open on one side for signature views, like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, or Camden Yards in Baltimore. I guess in that sense, Target Field comes across as a little less contrived, and is more like the old parks that sat right on the block in their neighborhoods, like Fenway Park, Wrigley, and Ebbets Field, although those parks were built within living, breathing neighborhoods, and not industrial zones. Who knows, in 30 years the neighborhood around it may completely change. Or it could end up sitting on the same unchanged parcel of land, as the wasteland around the Metrodome that never did get developed the way the city envisioned it.