Open-air Target Field will let baseball breathe in Minnesota
Target Field will give Twins fans what they've been missing for years: sunshine
Twins president: "I don't think there's any clamor to put a roof on Wrigley Field"
I made a number of observations on my recent walking tour of the new ballpark
MINNEAPOLIS -- As you walk around what will become, in eight short months, the Minnesota Twins' custom-built home and the major league's newest ballpark, your glance keeps drifting upward and, as if Bedford Falls were one of the Twin Cities, you start to hear Jimmy Stewart pitching woo on a stroll past picket fences:
"What is it you want, Minny? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Minny.''
Soon enough, the Twins will give their fans the moon. And the stars, the clouds, fresh air and a cool breeze at the end of a hot August day. A tan -- think of it, a tan at a ball game! A glimpse of the skyline in one direction, a whiff of the Hennepin County garbage incinerator from the other. Shoehorned into a tight but intriguing urban site on the opposite side of downtown from the Twins' current and much-maligned home, Target Field will boast all the amenities and comforts that people have come to expect from professional playgrounds priced at $500 million and beyond. But it offers something extra, something that in theory doesn't cost a cent:
How much is a blue sky worth? How much would you pay to look up and see the sun, a plane, even a blimp on special days, after being cooped up all week in an office, a classroom, a warehouse? How much -- after being indoors from November into April year after year because of where you live and then indoors again from April into October because of where your favorite team plays -- to breathe deep at the crack of the bat, to feel the sun's warmth or savor the moon's glow, to swear you can even smell the grass? What, you'd rather pull a gray Teflon cover over your head, hunker down in hermetically sealed, 70-degree artificial weather and settle for something vaguely reminiscent of a sport you once knew as baseball?
The draw in 2010 will be a new ballpark but the allure will come less from what's there (most notable on first exposure, the native Kasota stone from southern Minnesota that frames the exterior, highlights certain interior facades and even caps the dugout roofs) than what is not there. As in, the roof. That feature or, more accurately, deletion from what a couple generations of Twin Cities baseball fans have grown up with is Target Field's most striking difference from the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Now, despite what Al Gore and his legions might tell you, the climate in Minnesota hasn't changed nearly enough since the Dome opened in 1982. Last we checked, the Twins play 350 miles northwest of Milwaukee, where a canopy on wheels shelters crowds from any storms. Last we checked, too, the World Series is scheduled this year to push into November.
"A retractable roof would have cost $150 million and up to do,'' Twins president Dave St. Peter told me recently, while giving a personal tour of the new park. "Our owners already have put nearly $200 million into the project. The county had no interest in funding a roof. So based on the lack of state participation, our best alternative was to build Target Field without a roof.''
The Twins have run the numbers -- average temperatures in April and October, annual precipitation each spring and fall (and form, as in rain vs. snow), total number of weather postponements at old Met Stadium in suburban Bloomington from 1961 to 1981. The team averaged between three and four rainouts each season, St. Peter said, a workable number of games to make up in day/night doubleheaders.
"Rain, we can handle that,'' he said. "It's more an issue of climate. But we're getting soft in Minnesota. I expect to get as many fans complaining about the heat, missing the air conditioning in the Dome, as I do the cold.
"We are going to play more day games. I don't think there's any clamor to put a roof on Wrigley Field, and the fact is, there are crummy days in April at Wrigley Field. There will be crummy days in April at Target Field. But there will be beautiful days, too.''
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