Name: Target Field
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Opened: 12 April 2010
Architect: HOK Sport
Cost: $555 Million
Capacity: 39,501 (original)
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
If you've been following along with these ballpark profiles (and this is the twenty-third one we've done, so if not, get cracking!), you'll know that there are certain criteria that a ballpark must have to be considered 'great' (in our opinion).
It must be baseball-only. With a natural grass field. It must be open-air. It must be not only within its home city, but integrated into the fabric of the city itself (not pushed to the suburbs or surrounded by acres of parking lots). It must reflect/celebrate its surroundings, and "feel" like the hometown inside. And it should offer, beyond the outfield walls, a view of that city.
Target Field checks every one of these boxes with authority. It is, by our criteria, pretty close to the perfect ballpark. (In fact, given the climate in Minneapolis in the spring and late fall, if there's any ballpark that would have a legitimate argument for a dome or retractable roof, it's this one. But that was not to be, as we'll see below.)
Not only is Target Field part of the city, it is shoehorned into such a small footprint that only Fenway Park (built a century earlier) rivals it for total land area.
But they made the very best of the space available.
Reading the story of how Target Field came to be (and how it came to be on that location) is a roller coaster of a ride. For anyone interested in high-stakes drama, recriminations, political posturing, and the power of a single (but methodical) baseball fan, I'd recommend rolling up your sleeves and doing some research. But I'll do my best to summarize.
The Twins come into existence in 1961 when the Washington Senators relocated and began play at Metropolitan Stadium, a beloved old girl very similar to (the original) Candlestick Park and Kauffman Stadium.
In 1982, the Twins (and Vikings) moved into the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome. This was the era of the big multi-purpose dome, and -- as mentioned above -- Minneapolis is one city that can justify playing indoors. If you've ever been to Minneapolis in February, it's something you won't soon forget.)
In 1994 (note: this is sixteen years before Target Field came into existence), the owner of the Twins Carl Polhad (fairly universally disliked and the "second richest man in Minnesota" -- it doesn't say who the richest is, but my guess would be Prince?) declared the Metrodome "economically obsolete" and asked/told the city to build him a new ballpark. This does not make him more well-liked.
The people of Minneapolis love their Twins, but they're also practical people, and they knew Polhad was the second richest man in Minnesota, so they told him to build his own darn ballpark. Polhad, of course, threatend to move or sell the team if they wouldn't fund his new ballpark.
In 1996, the first proposal to build a publicly-funded ballpark failed. A year later, a revised plan began to gain traction when the Twins (Polhad) offered to contribute the initial startup costs of a new ballpark. The plan fell apart when this "contribution" turned out to be a short-term loan that would be repaid (with interest) from public funds. Not only was the ballpark plan defeated, but the voters passed a referendum prohibiting Minneapolis from spending more than $10 million on any sports venue without voter approval.
A year after that (1998) Polhad signed a letter of agreement with a buyers group from Greensboro, North Carolina to move the team there unless Minneapolis agreed to build him a new ballpark. The voters of Minneapolis said no. (Unsurprisingly, the buyers had a similar clause in the agreement, making it contingent on the city of Greensboro building them a new ballpark. In a nice twist of fate, the voters of Greensboro also said no, so the sale of the team fell apart.)
"Twins" Minnie and Paul are depicted on the Right Field Scoreboard, shaking hands over the Mississippi River
Then the mayor of St. Paul jumped in, suggesting the Twins move across the river and build their ballpark there with St. Paul's taxpayer money instead. (For anyone unfamiliar, Minneapolis and St. Paul are called the "Twin Cities", and straddle the Mississippi River. That's why the team is called the "Twins".)
This annoyed the people of Minneapolis, but not as much as it did the people of St Paul, who voted that plan down.
By 2001, Carl Polhad was tired of not making progress on either a new ballpark or selling the team, and so he (allegedly) agreed to take a $250 Million settlement from MLB to allow the twins to be part of the contraction. MLB Owners had just voted 28-2 to eliminate two teams to reduce the size of the league. In an ironic twist of MLB's federal anti-trust exemption that grants them all kinds of freedom from federal taxes and rules, the courts ruled that the Twins' status as a 'community asset' obligated them -- legally required them -- to continue to play baseball for the citizens of Minnesota. The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the decision and the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Bickering, infighting, and political wars of words continued for the next few years, with the new ballpark being a frequent item on local, county, and state legislative sessions. With the entire Minnesota legislature up for election in 2006, and the feelings of Minnesotans about paying hundreds of millions of dollars well-known, no candidates actively campaigned in support of a new ballpark (or stadium for the Vikings, but that's another blog), and the idea was considered dead.
This is the good part:
A Twins fan and blogger named Shane Nackerud had kept a personal spreadsheet in which he tracked legislators' stances, for or against the new ballpark. When the dust settled, Shane -- and only Shane -- realized that there were enough votes to pass a ballpark proposal. He started spreading the word, and over the next few years, a (very small) parcel of land was identified, and -- one by one -- the hurdles preventing a new ballpark were laboriously cleared.
(Almost. A the 11th hour, the owners of the land, who had agreed to a purchase price of $1.7 million per acre in 2004, had the land re-appraised and determined the fair sale price in 2006 was $4.3 million per acre, or $34 million for the total parcel. The city tried to seize the land under eminent domain, but all was finally resolved in 2007.)
(A heated field and heated seating areas help. A little.)
Sorry for the long-winded history lesson. It's just a great story. About a great, truly great, ballpark. Twins fans, you should be justifiably proud of what you have there.
(And there's no need to feel sorry for St. Paul. They missed out on getting the Twins, but they do have The St. Paul Saints, one of the great minor-league franchises, who play in beautiful CHS Field, which is only a 15-minute drive from Target Field.)
Can I say how jealous I am of people in the Twin Cities having these two teams -- and ballparks -- so close together? There is almost nothing more enjoyable than minor league baseball (that's another blog), and having these two options right at hand is a wealth of luxury that I hope they appreciate. Most major-league towns do not have a good minor-league park within a couple of hours drive.
And lastly, Minneapolis has been in the news this year for the worst of reasons. The Twins have announced that they are reviewing their entire brand identity, and will be unveiling a whole new set of brand marks and uniforms after the 2021 season. A local Minneapolis doctor, Charles Crutchfield, has suggested a minor tweak to their historic "Minnie & Paul" logo (as shown on the scoreboard above.) Making one of the twins a person of color is a small change that could say volumes. Here's hoping there is more of this across all sports.
We're going to try to contact blogger/spreadsheet holder Shane Nackerud and revised logo designer Dr. Crutchfield to give them free Target Field prints for their efforts.
Have your own thoughts or memories on Target Field? Post your comment below for a chance to win your own FREE PRINT from Ballpark Blueprints!