Twins New Ballpark Not Exactly On Target

Minneapolis needs a better press agent. It’s not that there’s a lot of negative information out there about this gleaming metropolitan area. It’s that there’s pretty much no information out there. I’m sure that there is a Chamber of Commerce, a Convention & Visitors Bureau and a Tourism organization of some sort. But the day-to-day, nuts and bolts work of creating an image for Minneapolis? Not so much. Come to think about it, I’ve read much more over the years about the resurrection of St. Paul, the smaller of the Twin Cities.

But each time my travels bring me to Minneapolis it’s almost like I’m seeing the city for the first time. And each time I like it. In fact, there’s next to nothing not to like – well except for that six month winter thing-y. “I have to come here more often”, I say to myself. But then my visit concludes, I get on a plane and inevitably fail to think about Minneapolis again until business brings me back.

Fortunately there is an easy solution to this PR gap. If anyone in a position of power in Minneapolis is reading this, I urge you to seek out the publicist for Target Field and pay them whatever they ask to take on the city as a client.

I say this because nowhere in the annals of sports journalism has one building received so many fawning accolades as has Target Field – the uncontested ultimate baseball park. The Wall St. Journal, USA Today, TWO feature stories in Sports Business Journal, yadayadayada.

“I must make the pilgrimage to pay homage”, I say to myself. “And besides, I seem to remember that Minneapolis is a pretty nice city.”

Truth be told, this trip is a little non-standard for the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour. I don’t usually go to an event to cover a building. They don’t move around a lot, and in general have very little to say. There’s not much thrill of victory or agony of defeat to be observed among steel, bricks and mortar.

So I came. I saw. I shrugged.

Twins Pre-Game Show From Concourse

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a nice ballpark, replete with plenty of modern amenities. But to be honest, it wasn’t the nicest baseball stadium I’ve visited this year (that would be San Diego’s Petco Park). Or even the second (that would be Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park). It is definitely nicer than Dodger Stadium though! But then again, so is pretty much every ballpark that was built after the debut of Camden Yards. Including many minor league stadiums.

And Target Field has some downright healthy flaws. One of which is the ability to circumnavigate the park. There are all kinds of angles to the ballpark, which at first blush is kind of cool. Things jut out from other things in ways that are definitely unique and visually stimulating. Entire sections remind me of bay windows or dormers that have been attached to the façade of a house.

The byproduct of that however, is that only the main concourse level of the stadium entirely circles the inside of the ballpark. All other levels and half-levels are self-contained corridors, and if you don’t know exactly where you’re going you wind up at a dead end. And it’s not like there are ramps or escalators at the ends of all those corridors to take you to the level above or below you. You must backtrack until you find a way out – which in my case was usually a stairwell secured by a closed door.

On one occasion, I entered a stairwell in which I found myself to be the only person. Feeling like I must have blundered into an emergency exit, I was prepared for a full body cavity search when I exited at the main concourse level. “No problem”, said the person stationed there when I emerged. Well, ahem…actually there is a problem when a primary means of egress is basically invisible to the 35,000 fans currently in the stadium.

My primary motivation for doing pre-game maze negotiation work on the upper levels of Target Field is that I got tired of shuffling along the main concourse. Much was written about the width of that concourse, and I suppose that if I saw it when the ballpark was empty I’d think it was huge as well.

But when virtually everyone in attendance has to walk along that concourse to get to the means of entry to their own upper level section, it gets pretty clogged. Either Minnesotans actually prefer to amble along at 1 ½ mph, or Target Field has a bottleneck problem.

I had another reason for doing the up/down navigation of Target Field though. I had no idea where my seat was.

I knew that it was somewhere down the left field line, and that it was in Row 6 of a Section named simply “V”. Being the veteran ballpark navigator that I am, I foresaw no problem with finding Section V. Except that all of the directional signage had a nasty habit of pointing to places with numbers. Sections 114 -120, this way. Sections 329 – 334, that way. But Section V?

Thinking that they were going for a Roman numeral, Super Bowl kind of thing, I began to wonder if maybe I was actually sitting in Section 5. But after consultative sessions with two separate Target Field employees I found Section V. It was just above Section 126 and kind of diagonally below Section 327 – you know, right where you’d expect it to be.

The View From Section V

When finally I got to my destination, it was a relief to settle down into my seat and gaze out across the field…at the right field foul pole. Twins people – really. You couldn’t sacrifice just a couple of seats in order to angle the rest of the row toward the diamond?

But at least I had an actual seat. As I looked down into the leftfield grandstands I noticed that several sections consisted of merely rows of aluminum benches with numbered seats. Because…?

I desperately needed some perspective. Granted my expectations were sky-high, but thus far this experience hadn’t remotely delivered. I needed to focus on the positive. Fortunately, Marissa was on her way.

To be continued…

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