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Minnesota’s Ballpark History Follows Baseball Trends

Baseball is a sport where tradition is engrained in the fabric of the game. As far as baseball traditions go, the Twins Cities have a long history, but the MLB history in the city is relatively young. Last spring, Paul Goldberger released a book called Ballpark: Baseball in the American City and he chronicled baseball’s different ballpark eras and what they have meant to the cities in which they reside. Here’s how the Twins ballpark history follows closely with trends seen through baseball’s different eras.
Image courtesy of Cody Christie, Twins Daily (book cover the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
The Suburban Era: Metropolitan Stadium
Metropolitan Stadium was one of the first stadiums to be part of a trend that moved from city centers to the suburbs. One of the biggest reasons for this trend was the lack of space and rising cost of land. Bloomington allowed the Twins to build a large complex with plenty of parking, especially since the team’s fans would be coming from multiple states and cars would be the main form of transportation.

Paul Golberger, the author, said, “Metropolitan, in the midst of a huge parking lot, exemplifies the notion of the suburban stadium (and how logical that it would become the site of the Mall of America, the ultimate suburban mall).” Some fans were sad to see the Met’s eventual demise. Goldberger said, “Fans do get attached to places because they have intense emotional experiences there, and understandably they become the source of deep-seated, meaningful memories.”

The Met helped convince a franchise to move to Minnesota and it served the team well for multiple decades including the team’s first World Series appearance, but baseball continued to evolve, and the Twins made the move from the suburbs into the city.

The Domed Era: The Metrodome
Houston’s AstroDome ushered in a new ballpark experience for fans and Minnesota would follow, although it would be 17 years after the AstroDome opened. The Metrodome certainly had its quirks and as a multipurpose stadium it didn’t exactly ever feel like a ballpark. Everything about the stadium was fake from the grass to the pumped in air, but it certainly fit in with some of the stadiums at the time.

“The Metrodome was one of the most egregious of the domed stadiums with no connection to anything around it and no natural connection to baseball,” said Goldberger. Some of the Twins’ most memorable moments came under a Teflon roof on artificial grass, but all the Dome’s flaws made the move back outdoors even more impressive.

The Return to Downtown Era: Target Field
Target Field opened in 2010 and it followed in the footsteps of plenty of ballparks that returned to downtowns across the United States and became part of the city again. Camden Yards in Baltimore, Coors Field in Denver, and PNC Park in Pittsburgh are just a few examples of what a city can do to make a ballpark integrated into a downtown footprint.

“Target is a really fine example of the later generation, where baseball not only came back into the city but was of the city, integrated with it,” said Goldberger. Later he said, “The home stadium for any team you care about will become a place you feel emotionally connected to, even if it’s a lousy piece of architecture and doesn’t do its job very well. But in a place like Target you can have the same emotional intensity and the same long-lasting memories and have a much happier environment besides.”

The Future
Target Field celebrated its 10th anniversary last season and the Twins front office and the Pohlad family continue to make upgrades on a yearly basis. Some teams like Atlanta and Texas abandoned relatively new ballparks in hopes of creating a different type of baseball experience.

“There’s no reason a ballpark can’t last for 50, 75 or even 100 years with proper care,” said Goldberger. “There is absolutely no reason that the Texas Rangers had to tear down Globe Life Park, which was only 25.”

The Twins have also embraced another budding ballpark trend by creating specific spaces at Target Field. Areas like Bat & Barrel, Minnie & Paul’s and Barrio are open to all fans and combine a social atmosphere that is far from the traditional way of watching a game. Goldberger said, “We’re seeing much more in the way of social spaces in ballparks now, including standing room areas where people can get drinks and wander, treating the experience of the game more like a cocktail party than something you need to observe from a fixed seat.”

Moving forward there could be another possibility for growth without leaving Target Field. Some organizations have started to create spaces around the ballpark that make for a full-day experience.
“Team owners, wanting to have more sources of revenue, are buying and controlling adjacent properties outside the gate,” said Goldberger. “We see that at Wrigley Field, and also at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals have developed the adjacent site as Ballpark Village.”

Target Field has certainly been a revelation when compared to previous Minnesota ballparks, but fans were very passionate about some of the quirks with Metropolitan Stadium and the Metrodome. Baseball is meant to be outside under the sun and it will be exciting to see what Target Field could be in the future.

What are your memories with all of Minnesota’s ballparks? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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6 Comments

Does he talk about the financial and social segregation aspects of new ballparks? At the Met, everyone was essentially together. Some tickets were more expensive than others, of course, but it was a communal experience and if you put up the price of a box seat you could be sitting next to a CEO.

 

The Metrodome allowed for private boxes, which created huge revenues for the club(s) and allowed the privileged to drink better liquor, eat better food, and avoid mingling with the masses. 

 

Target Field extended this model to include not only private boxes, but segregated the entire section behind home plate. Again, more revenue and more tiers of social segregation.

 

Attending baseball games, like so many other activities, has become much less of a "shared social experience" in the last 50 years. Perhaps a small cause, or perhaps a small result, of the polarization that is so apparent in our economics and our politics.

    • glunn, IndianaTwin, David HK and 1 other like this

The social aspects of ballpark evolution is interesting. But, for my two cents, I like it mixed with the competition ramifications of the evolution, as well. From 'original' ballparks (which had huge dimensions...sometimes not even having outfield fences)...to 'modern' parks that sprung up in the teens and twenties (which tended to be small)...to the era of 'mulit-purpose' parks (which tended to be bigger again, and often had artificial turf)...to the latest trend which hearkens back to the 'modern' parks built close to a century ago. This aspect of park evolution has dictated how 'great' has been defined through baseball's history...and is one of the primary reasons it's pretty impossible to compare players across generations.

    • glunn and Melissa like this
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Doctor Gast
Mar 19 2020 03:04 PM

I totally agree that baseball should naturally be played outside. But this is Minnesota, where most years we have snow in the beginning of the season & is cool until June & at the end of the season is cool. Myself I enjoyed playing baseball in hot weather. The Metrodome I had many fond memories besides having a controlled environment we had a substantial home field advantage

    • glunn likes this
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Nine of twelve
Mar 19 2020 06:15 PM

I'm trying to figure out how I feel about the social segregation issue brought up by PDX. I truly don't think that those who pay extra for premium seating and/or premium amenities are doing so in order to avoid communing with the unwashed masses. I think they are doing so strictly for the premium seating and/or premium amenities. I myself don't begrudge anyone the choice to spend their money how they see fit, and if it allows ownership to increase payroll so much the better.

That said, on a day with sparse attendance I wish that fans would be allowed to move into any unoccupied seat closer to the field. Is there really any harm in that?

I'm trying to figure out how I feel about the social segregation issue brought up by PDX. I truly don't think that those who pay extra for premium seating and/or premium amenities are doing so in order to avoid communing with the unwashed masses. I think they are doing so strictly for the premium seating and/or premium amenities. I myself don't begrudge anyone the choice to spend their money how they see fit, and if it allows ownership to increase payroll so much the better.
That said, on a day with sparse attendance I wish that fans would be allowed to move into any unoccupied seat closer to the field. Is there really any harm in that?


There is only harm in that if in fact your rejection of them not wanting to mix social classes is indeed false.
Since they don't allow the "unwashed masses" to fill those seats, perhaps that speaks for itself.

I have a passion for outdoor baseball, and never felt comfortable in the Dome (even for the few football games I attended there).

 

I grew up in Milwaukee and have very fond memories from my childhood of games at County Stadium and the Braves (Henry Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Matthews, Joe Alcock ...) until the team was carpet-bagged away to Atlanta when I was 12. Lost my team.

 

My one trip to Wrigley field with my Grampa was when I was four years old, so the memory is quite vague.

 

I lived in Boston from 1975-1984, arriving just in time for the '75 World Series, and for this girl without a team it was so easy to fall in love with the Red Sox. Fenway Park. Carleton Fisk, Jim Ed Rice, Fred Lynn, George 'Boomer' Scott, Carl Yaztzremski, Dwight 'Dewey' Evans. I got to see the rookie Roger Clemons pitch a couple of times just before I moved to Minnesota.

 

Other outdoor parks where I've attended games include Oakland Coliseum (yech), Candlestick Park ('interesting,' in that Minnesota meaning). and Coors Field (can't get a decent beer there, at least not for a Milwaukee native).

 

But starting in 1985 I became a die-hard Twins fan. I was SO pleased when the team was freed from the Dome to play on God's green grass. :-)  Yes, I've shivered my way through some games, gotten burnt to a crisp sitting in the upper deck on sunny afternoons, but I wouldn't trade it for indoor baseball for the world.

 

Yes, I'm a grumpy Boomer. So it goes ...

    • Nine of twelve likes this

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