Minnesota’s Ballpark History Follows Baseball Trends
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.”
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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