Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tour 2010: Target Field

All photos of Minneapolis and Target Field available on Flickr.

Saturday was the big day - Target Field! After getting in late from Willmar, we slept in until about 10 and lounged around our luxurious hotel room before heading out for the day around 1. Erik lived in Minneapolis for nearly 3 years, and I have been there many times before, so we really didn't have a big agenda before the game at 6:10. In lieu of sightseeing, we decided to go to the 5-8 Club for some Juicy Lucys. Erik and I had visited Matt's Bar on our last trip to Minneapolis in May 2009, and I was really excited to sink my teeth into the 5-8's version of this local delicacy. The 5-8 Club uses more meat of a higher grade, and they offer options of what you can get your burger stuffed with - mine was filled with wild rice and swiss cheese, and Erik's with mozzerella and pepperoni. But I recall Matt's version was greasier and cheesier, and therefore tastier. I don't think you can go wrong with either option, but I know I also speak for Erik when I say that my vote goes to Matt's. After downing our burgers and a pitcher of Leinie's, we headed back downtown and had a pregame beer at Hubert's. We always used to drink there before games at the Metrodome and were very pleased to see a new location open next to Target Field.

We knew we'd have a lot to see so we got to the park as early to gates opening as possible, about 4:15. We approached the stadium from the east and spent a few minutes in Gate 34 Plaza, taking our pictures with the Kirby Puckett, Tony Olivo, and Gold Glove statues. Each gate at Target Field is numbered after a famous Twin - Gate 3 (Killebrew), 29 (Carew), 14 (Hrbek), 6 (Olivo), and of course 34 for Kirby Puckett. The distinct numbering of the gates is very crucial at this park for wayfinding, since there really isn't a main entry. Gate 34 is probably the closest thing resembling a main gate since it is the only area connected at street level, but no entry can be said to be "in the back" or off to the side. This is one of my favorite things about this park - every entry is designed and all sides of the ballpark were given the architect's full attention. As a comparison, the absolute worst thing about Miller Park in Milwaukee is approaching the huge ugly green wall on what is very clearly the back of the stadium from the General Parking lot, the area where most people park. Whether by design or by constraints of the site, Target Field simply does not have that problem. The only sort of shady side of the ballpark is the west end railyard. For now, there is a chain link fence with banners and posters strategically blocking the view, but this is something that will be more permanently addressed by the "Tradition Wall" to be built in Phase II.

I mentioned the constraints of the site - the use of the site is probably one of the most unique things about Target Field. Most ballparks take up about 12 acres, but the architect Populous was only given about 2/3 of that to work with. Populous could have tried to wedge a smaller stadium into its site such as in Boston, but instead chose to place the actual field level below grade, and to cantilever some of the concourses and exterior walkways over railroad tracks, streets, and parking garages. This results in the user being able to walk around the entire park unobstructed despite it being on a downtown site. The exterior walkways, plazas at each entry, and the light rail station station on the north end all sort of "float" at or above street level and are a very nice way to enjoy the urban setting before gametime without having to contend with street traffic. The other very noticeable thing about Target Field other than the "floating site" is obviously the choice in material - locally quarried limestone, which is rarely seen at ballparks today. The limestone is most definitely a nod to the many masonry retro parks of recent years, but the fact that it's a very thin veneer that is very clearly hung off of a steel frame is sort of a play on the whole "floating" concept of the site. The limestone facade is broken up very nicely by a pattern of varying shades of tan, nonrectilinear angles, and a random array of punched window openings. At points of emphasis such as the team store or at a gate, metal and walls of glass are used to further contrast the heaviness of the stone.

As you can tell, there were many exciting and distinctive stadium features before we even set foot inside. Once we completed our lap around the park, we entered back through Gate 34 and collected our giveaway Twins caps. We could immediately see that the same attention to detail on the exterior was given to the interior. Everything from the smallest details of bar & stool design, to something commonly overlooked such as drywall ceilings covering ductwork, to the most subtle gesture of bringing some of that limestone inside the park, was all thought of at Target Field. I would say Erik and my only real complaint is that a lot of areas feel crowded due to the small site. A lot of it could also have to do with the fact that the Twins have been drawing standing-room only crowds since the park opened, but there's no denying that the concourses have pinch points at each entry gate and get very crowded. Things like team store lines kind of overflow into lines for the escalators and bathrooms, simply because there wasn't one more inch of room to widen the park. I think the architects did the best they could with what they had to work with, and all of the community areas and attention to detail more than make up for the crowded concourses and the incredibly steep bleacher sections shoved into the outfield. A big win for me as far as the interior goes is all of the standing room areas and gathering spaces. Even myself as a huge baseball fan, it's hard for me to sit still for 9 innings. Target Field has dozens of great areas where you can stand and watch a game, pull up a stool at a bar, or even full-service pubs to seek shelter in during the cold spring months and humid summer days.

It was very hot and humid as Erik and I walked around snapping photos and just soaking in the atmosphere, before finding our seats in right-center field. Erik sat and watched T.C. Bear entertain the crowd while I set out in search of food. The Twins pulled out all the stops for concessions too, as almost everything is locally made and can be found at no other ballpark. I went with the Tony O's Cuban pork sandwich and it was weak-in-the-knees delicious. After all of the hype and excitement, it was finally time for first pitch, and the game was just as much of a treat as the ballpark itself. Felix Hernandez got the start for the opposing Mariners and gave up 3 quick runs in the 1st inning off of run-scoring hits by Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, and Jim Thome. Mauer had a typical day, going 3-4 with an RBI, and the hot-hitting Young had 2 RBI of his own. King Felix settled down after that and ended up throwing 6 consecutive scoreless innings to earn a quality start. The Mariners' weak offense made Kevin Slowey look like...well, Felix Hernandez. He tossed 8 outstanding innings of 3-hit ball before giving way to Jose Mijares to complete the 4-0 victory. Following the game, we stopped at Hooters for a pint and then walked over to one of our old haunts from Erik's U of M days, Brit's Pub. It was a beautiful night to be sitting outside with a cold beer and it was a perfect end to the day.

We also had tickets to the series finale on Sunday. We said goodbye to our 10th floor hotel room at the Hilton and got to the yard about an hour before 1:10 first pitch. Today we approached the park from the #29 Carew gate and got to see the Rod Carew statue and the "money shot" Target Field sign above the team store. Our seats this day were excellent, in the 14th row on the first level, third base side. We had a beautiful view of downtown, and the sun wasn't directly in our face as it was the previous night. Before settling in for the game, we dominated the team store, and bought a couple of Killebrew root beers in souvenir aluminum bottles from Hrbek's Pub. Erik then decided to go with the Murray's steak sandwich, while I had a handmade polish sausage with fresh kraut from the Kramarczuk's stand. These locally made sausages were the talk of the park when it opened and did not disappoint, but I'd still have to say I liked the cuban pork sandwich better. Erik and I clearly needed at least another three games to try all of the food options at Target Field. Today's pitching matchup was Minnesota's ace Francisco Liriano against Seattle rookie Luke French, and it was another 4-0 victory for the Twins to complete the sweep. Liriano struck out 11 over 7 and the strikeout-counter guy in left field nearly ran out of empty spots for K's. Mauer and Thome both had the matinee off, so Jason Kubel provided the offense for the day with a 3-run double off the 23' high right field wall in the 6th, later scoring on hit by Danny Valencia. We were disappointed we didn't get to see Justin Morneau in the series as he is still on the DL with a concussion, but seeing ex-Brewer J.J. Hardy lace 'em up for both games was a treat, even though he contributed absolutely nothing to either win.

Twins fans deserved outdoor baseball in Minneapolis again, and the Twins delivered. And if it isn't enough that Populous crammed this beautiful open-air stadium into an 8-acre site and a $440 million budget, Target Field is also certified LEED Silver and has taken the crown of "world's greenest ballpark" away from Nationals Park. I think Target Field has the potential to be like Camden Yards in the 90s and could start a new design wave in future ballparks. Marlins Park, and renderings for the Rays and A's parks, already look to have strayed greatly from the retro ballpark motif, just as Target Field has. Erik and I thoroughly enjoyed our time here and we both definitely agree that this is without a doubt in the top 3 of all the major league stadiums.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 9
views from park - 8 (downtown)
view to field - 7 (cannot see entire field from bleachers, but great view angles and pitch)
surrounding area - 8 (downtown/Warehouse District)
food variety - 9
nachos - 8 (large portion, taco fixins)
beer - 7 (some local beers, several pub areas with good variety, expensive)
vendor price - 5
ticket price - 8 (excellent for a good major league team)
atmosphere - 9 (sellouts both games)
walk to park - 8
parking price/proximity - 6 (I parked 4 blocks away for $10, can also take light rail)
concourses - 4 (cramped, stairs are narrow)
team shop - 7 (seemed like mostly t-shirts)

best food - Tony O cuban pork sandwich
most unique stadium feature - site & materials
best jumbotron feature - Race to Target Field
best between-inning feature - pre-game homerun derby featuring T.C. Bear

field dimensions - 339/403/328
starters - Felix Hernandez (SEA) v. Kevin Slowey (MIN); Luke French v. Francisco Liriano
opponent - Seattle Mariners
time of game - 2:07; 2:14
attendance - 40799; 40374
score - 4-0 W; 4-0 W
Brewers score that day - 5-0 L; 5-2 L

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cuban sandwich isn't chicken, it's pork.

But you're right, it's delicious!