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Target Field
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8
4
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Minnesota Twins

The Metrodome stunk as a baseball venue. While it provided the Minnesota Twins with a crazy home field advantage, it was a terrible place to see a game. It was so bad, Bud Selig was going to contract the team*. When the public funding finally came together to replace it, the good people of Minnesota desperately wanted an anti-Metrodome. It had to be configured for baseball and ONLY baseball. It had to reflect the area. And it had to be open air.

*Maybe. When contraction first game up, The Expos were a no-brainer, and they needed to find a second team. The Florida Marlins were considered, but Jeb Bush was Florida’s governor, and his brother was president, so it seemed politically tricky. Meanwhile, the Twins owner was fed up with his inability to get any public funding for a new ballpark. Plus Selig always saw the Twins as competitors to his Brewers, so getting rid of them could work in Milwaukee’s favor. Hence the Twins were floated out. Whether this was ever really seriously considered is debatable.

When Target Field was proposed, there were skeptics. The plot of land on the edge of downtown into which it would squeeze was roughly the size of Fenway Park’s footprint: they had to shoehorn the park into a former surface parking lot adjacent to the county’s garbage burner. There were concerns about odor or debris.

So far, the critics seem to be wrong. The burner on the ballpark’s northwest side largely has gone unnoticed, while the tiny footprint forced some innovative thinking that helped set this park apart from others.

Target Field is a wonderful stadium, one of the best facilities in North America. It seems to do everything very, very well even if nothing is particularly outstanding. You want a nice view of downtown? Check? Wide concessions? Check. Local fare and good beer? Check. Social areas to hang out? A great scoreboard? A catalyst for growth and development in the surrounding area? Check, check and check.

And it keeps improving. Even though it only opened in 2010, the Twins spend money annually eliminating pain points, making small but meaningful improvements to the stadium such as installing a spectacular natural wall to serve as the batter’s eye, or converting a private club to an all-access craft beer bar, or moving a giant gold glove statue off its pedestal so fans could better interact with it.

Yet despite all the great stadium and ongoing improvements, attendance at the ballpark has dropped year over year 7 of the park’s first 9 years. Sure they fielded many non-competitive teams, but great ballparks usually fill themselves, and this one, for whatever reason hasn’t. Maybe they just need to stop playing the Yankees in the playoffs and win a post-season game (they’re 0-7 since moving here, and yes, that was a cheap shot from a bitter Tigers fan).

STADIUM 43/50

Exterior aesthetics 10/10; Interior & Concourse Aesthetics 9/10; Sightlines & seating 8/10; Amenities & entertainment 7/10; Flow 4/5; Celebrating history 4/5; Scoreboards 5/5; Grand entrance 5/5; Sense of place 9/10; WOW Factor 25/30. Total 86 points divided by 2 for 43.

The Twins made perhaps the most urban of ballparks, contouring the park to fit the small footprint like the great stadiums of yore. Most of the design quirks here were borne out of necessity and little bonus touches were very well thought out. The result is one of the best structures in the Big Leagues.

THE GOOD:

  • Limestone from Kasota Minnesota serves as exterior’s primary façade, which is nicely accentuated by natural Brazilian wood paneling. It feels like a Minnesota forest, and is distinctive among baseball stadiums throughout the country.
  • The limestone exterior finds it way inside as well. The interior grandstand facades are designed in Minnesota’s local stone. And the club seats have wood backs, keeping the “natural” theme going. It’s pretty.
  • The new natural batter’s eye is stunning, further keeping with the “nature” feel of the park
  • The sculpted canopy roof provides plenty of shade, keeping things comfortable for the brief but lovely Minnesota summer
  • Gates are numbered after former Twins greats. Gate 14 for Kent Hrbek, Gate 6 for Tony Oliva, Gate 3 for Harmon Killebrew, Gate 29 for Rod Carew, Gate 34 for Kirby Puckett. The Gate 34 “Main Entrance” is built over the I-394 Freeway, connecting downtown Minneapolis with the park, and is a fantastic Grand Entrance. It has bays for pop-up local vendors, a fake lawn with some lawn games in addition to the statues of Puckett, Hrbek, Carew, Killebrew, former owner Carl Pohlad and Twins’ mascot TC Bear. There’s also a Gold Glove statue in recognition of all Twins players who won the award.
  • The trapezoidal right field stands are shaped that way because of an existing parking structure visible from the seating area. The Twins made the parking structure part of the park design by installing a cool-looking wind veil on the wall most visible to fans. It makes waves as the wind blows, and at night is lit in color-changing lights for pleasing effects (see the last image in this review for a good visual of it during daylight).
  • There was some concern about having a non-enclosed stadium in a market with probably the shortest period of true baseball weather in the MLB. The Twins countered that with many radiant heaters in the concourses, allowing fans to warm up when they come up for a bite. And because the concourses are open, they can stay warm while keeping their eye on the game. The Club Level is climate controlled and can be a good option on harsh weather days.
  • The Minnie and Paul logo in center is great. It shows two players wearing the uniforms of the two minor-league teams that played in the Twin Cities before the Twins’ arrival, the Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints, shaking hands across the Mississippi River. When a Twins pitcher strikes out an opponent, the corners of the sign flash to portray the strike zone. After a Twins home run, the strobe lights flash, Minnie and Paul shake hands, and the Mississippi River flows. After a Twins victory, the “T” and “s” in “Twins” will blink to show the message “Twins win”.
  • The club level is one of the most well-appointed, well-designed mezzanine levels in any stadium with the pièce de résistance being the gorgeous wood murals of Carew and Puckett
  • There are several social areas, bars and restaurants. You could easily spend an entire game in the park and never have an assigned seat. In fact, the Twins sell stadium passes to locals who’ll use them to grab a bite and catch a few innings from one of the common areas.
  • The flagpole is from the Twins’ first Minnesota home, Metropolitan Stadium

THE BAD:

  • While they largely did an amazing job with space, there were some compromises due to the small footprint. The architects were forced to pack too many seats into the outfield to get capacity to a reasonable level; it feels boxed in more than cozy
  • There needed to be fewer aisles to maximize the number of seats, meaning lower bowl sections go 24 seats across
  • There’s no kids’ area other than a few stand-up video game consoles
  • While there are nice team history exhibits outside the park, there’s very little inside
  • The upper deck concourse is a little tight
  • The panorama of the city scape is viewable mainly from the third base side. On the first base side, you’re looking at the steep leftfield grandstand that recollects old Metropolitan Stadium, but offers little view.
  • In a bit of irony, a park that eschewed the red brick exterior sits in a neighborhood with a lot of red brick structures. The gorgeous limestone does stick out a little with its surroundings.

All things considered, it’s one of the best structures in the game. And proof that necessity is the mother of invention given how they crammed everything into such a tight space.

FOOD 8/10

Target Field does a great job bringing in local fare. The “State Fair Classics” stands include Walleye on a stick, Minnesota sweet corn, Pork Chops, mini-donuts, and “MinneApple Pie”. The Wild Rice Soup is really good as are the cheese curds. Kramarczuk’s Sausages get deserved rave reviews. The Red Cow stand sells some fine burgers and the Red Rabbit a decent chicken parm. Recently, a Peanut Butter n’ Jelly Candied Bacon Sandwich and a Chicken & Waffle cone made the menu. And the Town Ball Tavern sells (or least sold, I didn’t see it last year) a decent Juicy Lucy which is a burger with the cheese inside the meat.

There are also surprisingly good range of foods and cuisines. The Hot Indian stand consistently churns out good stuff. Throughout the park you can find decent Tex-Mex, BBQ, Cuban sandwiches, Italian dishes and Middle Eastern cuisine. The Bat and Barrell serve shareable platters with a lot of food including a charcuterie plate and a Greek plate (I saw them but have never eaten them). When the Twins acquired Nelson Cruz in 2019, they brought over the 2-foot long Boomstick that first appeared in Texas. And a shout out to the Killebrew Root Beer; if you’re not drinking real beer, drink this.

My Personal Fave: Murray’s steak sandwich. Not quite as orgasmic as the steak sandwiches offered at the New York parks, but still an amazing dish from a local institution. You may now need to go to the Town Ball Tavern to get one.

BEER 9/10

Local brew Surly has a nice presence in the ballpark. Their top-selling (and amazing) Furious is available as is their Hell (German helles) and Xtra Citra Pale Ale. Summit also is fairly present with their Cabin Crusher Kölsch and Slugfest Juicy IPA. This paragraph alone is almost enough to earn this lofty rating.

Many local brews can also be found, mainly from stands in the lower bowl, from Insight Brewing, Indeed Brewing, Fair State, Fulton, Castle Danger Brewing, Third Street, Waconia, Modist Brewing, Bent Paddle, Northlake, Schell’s and Finnegan’s. Craft macros are also available.

Even the “macro beers” are a little more interesting. Michelob Golden and Grain Belt have had a traditional presence even with the vendors.

NEIGHBORHOOD 8/10

Downtown Minneapolis is a vibrant downtown with some high density residential nearby. There are many entertainment venues in the area to enjoy. The stadium is on the edge of downtown with the neighborhood north of the stadium developing rapidly; with all the new craft breweries and casual eateries popping up, this score will be even higher in a year or two.

Any sunny day over 50 degrees will bring hardy Minnesotans outside. You can just walk around the area a few hours before the game and join the festivities on the busy patios.

The Smack Shack, Fulton Brewing, Borough, Red Rabbit, Kieran’s and Gluek’s had great outdoor areas. Pizza Lucé (decent slices), Runyon’s (classic American bar with good wings) and 508 Bar (American fare and drink) were good close-to-the-park places. Fifth street has Sneaky Pete’s, and popular (and really good) chains The Pour House and Hop Cat.

COST 4/5

Midwestern sensibilities won’t allow for crazy price gouging. As such, the Twins, like many middle-of-the-country mid-market teams, price below MLB average.

ACCESSIBILITY 5/5

There’s a Light Rail station literally outside the stadium door, the terminus of both the St Paul green line and the Mall of America blue line. You can take the train straight from the airport. If driving, plenty of parking ramps surround the ballpark, with many less expensive options a little further afoot downtown. I think it’s the most accessible ballpark in baseball. And if coming in from out of town, there are plenty of nice and relatively affordable hotels in the area.

WEATHER 1/5

While Minnesota summers are glorious, they’re the shortest among all open-air MLB cities. Some of those early season games can be outright frigid, and a nip in the air returns for late season games as well.

VIBE 13/20

The fine people of Minnesota are more reserved than in other parts of the country. Its strong Scandinavian heritage is sometimes evident at the ballpark. You don’t get the intensity as you do on the East Coast (unless the Twins are playing the Yankees in a meaningful regular season game). Attendance was strong when the park opened but waned as the team went through a stretch of non-competitive seasons.

Everybody is exceedingly polite be they the ushers, ticket takers, bartenders, and fellow fans. There’s a pleasantness in the park where it seems everybody knows everybody.

A consequence of having so many amazing social areas to catch some of the game is that people can be missing from the seats for several innings at a time. It seems as if place takes the first three innings to fill, then sees dispersion to the clubs and restaurants for the middle innings, only to have early leavers starting to file out over the course of the last three innings. Other than maybe the bottom of the sixth, I can never get a gauge on how full the place really is.

There are some nice touches. “Little Red Corvette” from Minnesota’s funky native son Prince plays after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. The team Fight Song, “We’re Gonna Win Twins” is vintage early 60’s cheese and a lot of fun. The new Gate 34 entrance brings the festivities of the ballpark before you even have your ticket scanned. And that amazing Minnie and Paul board makes me smile.

It’s a pleasant experience. But I can use a little more vim and vigor from the crowd.

GALLERY


OTHER FUN THINGS TO DO


Three fun Minneapolis eateries:

  • Matt’s Bar (Powderhorn. Divey neighborhood bar that’s home to the original Jucy Lucy)
  • Union Rooftop (Downtown. Fancy-ish place with a retractable cover on their beautiful rooftop patio. Worth being here just for the vibe alone).
  • The Loon Café (Downtown. Great on a chilly day for some local chili or soup, and a brew),

Three places to imbibe before the game:

  • Gluek’s (Downtown. Old school place with some of their own taps, and boots of beer)
  • City Works (Downtown. Nearly 100 taps and even more TVs. What’s not to like?)
  • Fulton Brewery (Warehouse District. Fun taproom walkable from the ballpark.)

One bar in the area worth hitting:

Republic (Cedar-Riverside). Gastropub with 104 craft beers on tap that’s closer to the football stadium, but worthy of a light rail ride.

Three craft breweries in the area worthy of your time:

  • Surly Brewing Co. (U of M. The king of all breweries/restaurants. Rivals SoCal’s Stone as the best brewery experience in America.)
  • Indeed Brewing (Logan Park. Neat space and home to the Day Tripper APA.)
  • Dangerous Man Brewing (NE Minneapolis. Less than a mile from Indeed. Great cream ale and IPA. Often rated among MSP’s best)

Three fun tourist attractions in the area:

  • Mall of America (Big mall with indoor amusement park. Look for the old home plate from Metropolitan Stadium in the amusement park area.)
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (Funky modern art and a nice stroll)
  • Minnehaha Falls (A little Minnesota nature just north of the airport).

SUMMARY

ESPN Magazine once rated this the best sports facility in North America. They aren’t far off.

They went with an amazingly accessible downtown location and found a way to make its tiny footprint work. It does everything well, with its few flaws being a result of the cramped site. It’s a great urban park with a “nature” theme that reflects well on its home. It’s one of only 7 stadiums to score above 90, and absolutely has to been on any stadium wanderers’ list. Go for a mid-summer night game and enjoy.