Finally an Real Urban Ballpark! (The Sidewalks of Target Field Part 1)

I’m about as big a baseball fan as they come. And while I’m critical of poor people’s tax money lining the pockets of local bazillionaires, as well as the culture of reactionary homerism that vaguely afflicts the Twins organization, I was dying to see what the new stadium felt like.

Back in 2005, when the stadium bill passed, I was working at the state legislature and got to sit in on a lot of the house committee meetings about the stadium. I saw endless different stadium plans appear on posterboard and powerpoint. I sat through the endless company talking points about “fan friendliness” and “intimacy” and “urban” and “bike trail” and all the other stuff that sounds good to a DFL legislator. The process was heavily charged, and given the constant stream of cuts to education, health care, and everything else under the sun, giving away $350 Million public dollars to what is undeniably a private business is unconscionable. The only saving grace is that the Pohlad family (unlike carpetbagging Zygi) doesn’t seem likely to sell the team after its dramatic increase in value and revenues.

But, be that as it may, I grew up going to lots of Twins games at the horrible Metrodome. My dad would take us to the games and my brother and sister and I would ‘circumnavigate’ the far upper reaches of the upper deck, wandering around the empty seats. The Metrodome, like skyways, giant public housing towers, and Spam canned ham, was a Modernist fantasy whose death (at least for baseball) was long overdue. I’ll miss going to baseball games there only because of childhood nostalgia, plus the occasional moment of excitement when the pressure’d air blew you out of the exit doors.

So, what is Target Field like? I’ve been lucky enough to be there three times so far, and honestly, I can’t find a single negative thing to say. (And that’s despite the fact that two of the three days it rained on me, including that accursed ‘rain suspension’ against the Yankees.) It’s just wonderful, and reminds me of all the best things I love about America’s great baseball parks. It has the Wrigley Field concourse, old Yankee stadium bleachers, Fenway’s small footprint, and that ‘new car smell’ that you find San Fransisco’s Pac Bell Park. It’s a great place to be for baseball.

But, what about for the city of Minneapolis? How does the new stadium fit into the city? Does it catalyze activity downtown? What kind of impacts and effects does it have on its surrounding land uses and neighborhoods?

From a urban planning perspective, there are two things that I absolutely adore about the stadium, and one that I find half intriguing and a half troubling. Over the next few days, I’ll tell you about each of these things in turn.

[Even the inside of Target Field is filled with good sidewalks.]

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