Twins offer glimpse at ballpark design
Seating size, open concourse highlight update of new facility
MINNEAPOLIS -- With a cold snap gripping Minnesota and the trees filled with holiday lights, not many folks are thinking baseball these days. But the holiday season didn't delay a first glimpse at some of the features to be included in the Twins' new ballpark when it opens in a few years.
On Tuesday, Hennepin County commissioners heard a preliminary presentation about some of the design and programming elements that will be included in the facility, which will be built north of Target Center in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis.
Rick Johnson, the county's coordinator for the ballpark project, said that they're currently only about 15 percent of the way through the design process, but he took the time -- along with officials from the Twins and from HOK, the firm designing the facility -- to give an update about what they've got so far.
The Twins ballpark will be similar in seating size to PNC Park in Pittsburgh or Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, with around 40,000 seats. Just 10,000 of those seats will be in the upper deck, giving the majority of fans a closer proximity to the playing field. Earl Santee of HOK said they aim to make use of every square inch of the very compact site on which the ballpark will be constructed.
"This will be the most compact ballpark that HOK has built," Santee said. "In fact, it would fit inside most of the ballparks we've built. But the concourses will be twice as wide as the Metrodome, and there will be twice the number of bathrooms."
One theme already emerging in the design process is bridges. Johnson and Santee both noted that most fans will access the ballpark via existing bridges over Fifth Street and Seventh Street, and a bridge that is planned to span Sixth Street. Similar to Turner Field in Atlanta, the main entrance plaza into the ballpark will be on the outfield side of the facility.
Another popular element promised for the ballpark is an open concourse, similar to the one at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. It will allow fans inside the facility to walk completely around the field without ever losing sight of what's happening between the white lines. Other elements inside the ballpark will be a restaurant just beyond right field and team offices just beyond left field.
While the field dimensions aren't completely set, Twins officials say that it will be fair to both hitters and pitchers, and despite the compact size of the facility, it won't necessarily be a power hitter's dream. The power alleys will actually be deeper than those in the Metrodome. And the abilities of current Twins have factored into the decision-making behind some of the ballpark's on-field elements.
"Most of the wall is about eight feet high, and the reason for that is we want to see Torii Hunter jump up and catch a home run over the wall," said Jerry Bell, president of Twins Sports, Inc. "It can't be so low that it's easy, but it can't be so high that it's impossible."
Bell and others from the Twins have been meeting with city and county officials every week since mid-summer, working out design elements that will help the ballpark blend into and complement downtown Minneapolis. One enduring complaint about the Metrodome is that the stadium is an island unto itself, with no real neighborhood around it. Bell said the new facility will be more like Fenway Park in Boston or Wrigley Field in Chicago in its integration with the surrounding community.
"Principles for good urban design have been applied to this project," said Chuck Lear, the chair of the design advisory committee appointed by the county. "We want to make getting to the game as exciting as the game itself."
The commissioners praised the work that has been done thus far, and said that they look forward to hearing more about the project's progress in the coming months. While some of the land needed for the facility has not yet been purchased, the project is on schedule for an opening at the start of the 2010 season.
Commissioner Mike Opat, one of the biggest proponents of the ballpark, said that Tuesday's meeting was an opportunity for them to check on the progress of the project and make sure that it fits the site. He said that the commissioners will get a presentation on the schematic design project and a more detailed cost estimate in February.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.