I can state that Target Field is not your daddy’s ballpark from a certain level of experience.
You see, I’m the daddy. Growing up in Minnesota in the '70s, the old Met Stadium was my ballpark.
To me, the Met was the greatest place in the world—a huge green haven off the interstate south of the Twin Cities.
Of course, in hindsight, it wasn’t that great of a stadium. Kind of cold and sterile, without any real charm. But it was outdoor baseball.
Charm, of course, has been built into the new ballparks. It is what every architect of modern American baseball fields is told to create.
The first of the new modern parks would have to be considered U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, home of the White Sox. If you’ve ever been in this stadium, you know they left out the charm.
However, a year later Camden Yards in Baltimore opened, and they nailed it. Camden Yards is oozing with charm.
Since the opening of Camden Yards 18 years ago and the opening of Target Field one day ago, there have been 18 modern-day, baseball-only parks that have opened in between. Some of them have gotten it right, and some not so much.
The better ones, to me, seem to all have been built in the last eight to 10 years. The parks from the '90s, in general, although most of them are great ballparks and vast improvements over what they were replacing, don’t have that extra “charm” feel, if you will, of the parks from 2000 and later.
I think the best of the parks from the '90s, including Camden Yards, are Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, opened in 1994, and Progressive Park in Cleveland, opened the same year.
Safeco Field in Seattle is one of the better ones from the end of the decade, opened in 1999, but I dislike the location of the field in the south end of the city. I have lived in western Washington for over a dozen years now, so I feel I have the right to say this. The south end of Seattle is a little dirty and industrial. They don’t like you to say this in Seattle, so please don’t tell them.
All of the parks from the last 10 years have pretty much gotten it right. Eleven baseball parks were opened from 2000 to 2009. I think the best of these might be Yankee Stadium, opened last year, but I rather like Miller Park in Milwaukee as well, opened in 2001.
Okay, that brings us to Target Field, the newest gem for MLB.
The Twins spent about 30 years in the dome following the destruction of my old boyhood stadium, The Met. I have to say, I kind of always liked the dome. As far as domes go, for baseball, it had some charm. But I didn’t shed a tear when they started building the new park.
Target Field, located in downtown Minneapolis, adjacent to Target Center where the Timberwolves play, has put the best of all the new parks into one. These newer parks have the luxury of seeing what has worked over the last 20 years and what hasn’t.
It’s early, but Target Field may end up being the best of all of them. The design called for a neutral park. The Metrodome, of course, was a hitter’s park. The Twins often built their offense around speed and defense, something that could give them an edge on the quick indoor turf (laid over concrete) inside the Metrodome.
Although they opted for no retractable roof (saving about a million bucks), the stadium does have the largest full roof canopy in baseball—protecting fans from some of the elements of a Minnesota spring, summer, and fall.
One of my favorite touches is the 100,000 square feet of local limestone around the ballpark. It also has heated viewing areas and a heated field. They went for a high-def scoreboard, the fourth largest in all baseball parks.
The park is small, only about a million square feet, which is almost exactly the same size as Fenway Park. More so than any other new park, you feel on top of the play—part of the game.
I also like the numbering of the gates. The five main gates are numbered for great Twins of the past: Gate 3 for Harmon Killebrew, Gate 29 for Rod Carew, Gate 14 for Kent Hrbek, Gate 6 for Tony Oliva, and Gate 34 for the late great Kirby Puckett. Puckett’s son joined the other four living legends in a ceremony before the first game yesterday, a very cool moment.
I should probably mention the Twins won the first ever game at Target Field 5-2 over Boston.
The nostalgic part of me also liked one final touch they put into Target Field: The flagpole out in right field is the original flagpole, restored, from the Met Stadium.
Now, if they could just do something about the state bird in Minnesota—the mosquito.