Target Field impressionsby Joshua Fisher
April 20, 2010
Target hasn't been shy about promoting its sponsorship of the Twins' new stadium.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was a joke. From the garbage-bag covering of the walls, to the baseball-colored Teflon sky, to the absolutely ludicrous sight lines, it was, when configured for baseball, among the worst venues in American professional sports. But Minnesotans are a proud bunch; they embrace a winter that might last over half the year, and take perverse satisfaction in the tangled mess of construction choking area freeways.
I suppose it makes sense: In a land of idiosyncrasies, the bizarre is normal, and the normal foreign. While the Metrodome should have been taken out back and shot several years ago, it persevered. And, darn it, so did those plucky Twins. But to become something more than a scouting-and-fundamentals division contender with scant hope in the postseason, the Twins needed a new home.
And quite the new home it is. Target Field surely holds its own against any of the new ballparks. Distinctly Minnesotan, it is a venue befitting its tenant and clientele. It is, first and foremost, a good place to play and watch baseball. But it is also a vehicle to something new for the Twins: expectations of consistent excellence. While Target Field might not confer the unique advantages the Twins enjoyed at the misshapen and ill-conceived Metrodome, the club's new digs offer something more important: financial resources which should allow the organization to maintain a top-shelf product on the field. In several respects, Target Field is impeccable. After attending two games in its opening week (April 14 versus the Red Sox and April 16 against the Royals), I'm happy to share some details of the Target Field experience.
Location is everything.
Looking out from the third base line toward downtown Minneapolis and the Target Center, home to the NBA's Timberwolves.
While I haven't been to several of the new, downtown ballparks, I can't imagine any are situated better than Target Field. Located among three large parking ramps and steps from stations for both the area Light and Commuter Rail lines, getting to Target Field is a breeze. I live a shade over a mile southeast of the stadium, and my commute required a single bus and took all of eight minutes. In an area that takes a great deal of pride in its conservation efforts, commuters of all types can access Target Field with no problems. From cyclists to drivers to train-riders, fans can be certain that their preferred method of getting downtown will be perfectly suited for reaching Target Field.
Of course, ease of access is just one factor of location. Just as importantly, Target Field is within easy walking distance of the majority of downtown Minneapolis' entertainment options. Fans of all ages and interests can find great places to meet, eat, drink and play steps from Target Field. Before and after the game, there is no shortage of choices. Young adult fans will enjoy Target Field's proximity to some of downtown's hottest nightspots, and business-minded folks hosting clients and colleagues benefit from the high number of nearby upscale restaurants and hotels.
Smalley's 87 Club, named for former Twins shortstop Roy Smalley, is bustling even at 10 in the morning.
It's the details that count.
Never could Target Field's designers be accused of failing to recognize the franchise's Minnesota history. Rather than an expected sequence, the five gates into Target Field bear the names and numbers of all Twins honored with retired numbers: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Olivo, Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett. Keeping with one of Minnesota's areas of social focus, each of the gates is wheelchair-accessible. The gate closest to the heart of downtown, Gate 34, honors one of the most beloved athletes in Minnesota history.
This statue outside Gate 34 evokes the memory Jack Buck's immortal "And we'll see you tomorrow night!" call following Puck's walk-off home run forcing Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
But how's the view?
The term "not a bad seat in the house" gets thrown around quite a bit, but I feel comfortable attaching it to Target Field. Built on just eight acres, the fewer-than-40,000 capacity Target Field enjoys wonderful sight lines from everywhere in the park. The field level, between-the-bases seatholders are certainly well-situated; there is next to -no foul ground to be seen. Even ascending to the upper deck, the stadium is built sparingly and steeply enough to afford the baseball-attending proletariat terrific views of the action on the field. There are, of course, several premium seating sections with access to a variety of upscale bars and gathering areas, in addition to the numerous private suites.
Having spent at least an hour of each game traversing the grounds, I would advise those concerned with ticket prices to choose outfield seats over infield seats in the upper deck. While Metrodome veterans surely recoil with horror at the prospect of sitting beyond the outfield walls, I promise this is a new experience entirely. For a few bucks less than upper deck infield seats, outfield-dwelling patrons feel right on top of the action. For my money, the best budget seats in the park are in the Overlook section, an aptly named seating box which sits on a platform jutting out over right field. It's a small section, which means quick access to the concourses. The Overlook is also right inside Gate 34, making for a quick escape to the nightlife scene, win or lose.
Prices vary by game; I'm using prices from the middle tier games, dubbed "Select." The lower-level seats are about what you'd expect; the variety is in the number of different outfield and upper deck options.
Home Plate Terrace, upper deck, $34
Right Field Bleachers, $19
Batter's Eye, $24
Field Terrace, $24
Home Run Porch Terrace, $24
The Overlook, $24
Going for a stroll.
Target Field features wide concourses, a tremendous variety of concessions (often with well-known local products), and views of the field from anywhere in the building. There are several in-stadium quasi-bars, which are a cross between traditional concession stands and lounges. I also noticed two themed full bars in the outfield concourse, should you tire of standard offerings. The lower bowl walkways are spacious and upscale, inviting patrons to part with their cash in any number of ways. The upper deck concourses, which are strongly reminiscent of Kauffman Stadium's, also offer a unique perspective.
Jesse Crain warms up for all to see. The visiting team's bullpen is adjacent to the Twins', closer to the field but less sheltered.
The concourses are full of interesting distractions, like a photo booth that will e-mail you a copy of its shot for free, and several video-game kiosks for younger fans to enjoy. However, my principal complaint about the stadium concerns the walkways. Here is what you see when you reach the end of the upper deck concourse on the third base line.
It's not that I have anything against brats, pretzels and peanuts. But where do I go from here? The stairs in the picture serve only the seating section directly above the location of the shot, so one must descend a floor to continue walking around the stadium. The problem is that getting down at this part of the concourse is not intuitive. The escalators, numerous but sparsely-signed, are a long way off. Instead, fans are supposed to enter this room:
What the sign fails to indicate is that behind the double doors you can see through the glass there are stairs to descend to the club level concourse. Unless you intend to traipse back toward the infield, those stairs are your best bet to continue your circumnavigation of Target Field. Why they are hidden behind an Area of Refuge is beyond me. Simply put, getting up and down at parts of Target Field is not intuitive. It's a minor complaint which could easily be addressed by better signing, but it certainly bothered me during my first visits to the stadium.
When the sun goes down.
One of the most oft-discussed topics concerning Target Field is how it will play come the cold weather. While it's too early to say how much of an effect chilly nights will have on the games, it's clear that Target Field's designers contemplated fans' comfort. The concourses are almost entirely covered, offering shelter from the elements. Many of the seating sections are protected from above by awnings or other seating sections. Finally, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of ceiling space heaters installed. In an earlier picture showing a view from the outfield, you'll notice an orange ring around the concourse. That comes from the glow of the numerous heaters.
You think a cold breeze will deter Minnesotans? Think again.
While there will be frigid nights at Target Field, don't expect Twins fans to cower in terror. For the opportunity to watch the home team play late-October baseball, Twins fans will gladly brave the elements. The chance to watch the plucky-turned-powerful Twins under the stars is all the incentive the club's dedicated fanbase needs.
Target Field clears out following a home win over Zack Greinke and the Royals.
The bottom line.
Target Field is a gem. Icons and motifs of the team's past are incorporated seamlessly into a sparkling stadium featuring all the modern amenities. As if it had been dropped in by helicopter, Target Field is located such that a baseball game now starts much earlier than 7:10 and might end much past three hours later. From its limestone facade to its State Fair concession stands, Target Field is Minnesotan through and through. After several years in carpeted hell, Twins fans—and the Twin Cities—have a baseball stadium begging to be shown off to the rest of the world.
Not all things from the Dome needed to be discarded; here, my buddy Mike, properly attired for baseball, joins me for a picture with Wally, vendor of legend.
Josh is a lawyer in the Kansas City office of Bryan Cave LLP. He created the website DodgerDivorce.com.
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