MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins played outdoors at a stadium called Metropolitan Stadium from the day they moved to Minnesota from Washington in 1961 through the end of the 1981 season. It was located in suburban Bloomington, the first suburban, parking-lot-surrounded stadium in the major leagues (asterisk to Milwaukee's County Stadium, which had the parking lots a few years earlier, but was located within Milwaukee's city limits).
It's cold much of the spring, and some of the early fall, in metropolitan Minneapolis; the area has the coldest average climate of any major American city. The Twins were tired of getting snowed out or playing in 35-degree temperatures; it happened much more often than they would have liked. The Minnesota Vikings, though they appeared to have a huge home-field advantage playing in icy conditions, also wanted some climate control.
Up went the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. It was great for the Vikings, and the Twins had nice conditions to play in April and May. Unfortunately, said some, they missed having pleasant summer afternoons and evenings outdoors at Twins games. The Twins wanted a new ballpark, and they argued about it in the state legislature, as has been the norm in recent decades. Eventually the politicians agreed to fund a new stadium for the Twins, with the team paying about a third of the money and the rest financed by a local sales tax. When the place was completed, the total price tag was around $440 million.
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough money to build a retractable roof like the one on Miller Park in Milwaukee, a city with a climate somewhat warmer than Minneapolis.
Minneapolis is an overgrown Midwestern small town. This is most obvious when you ride the light rail to Target Field from near the Mall of America, which was built on the site of Metropolitan Stadium. Massive grain silos dot the landscape near the rail line, within a few miles of downtown Minneapolis. It would be as if you were going to downtown Chicago and found grain silos near Wrigley Field, or on your way to midtown Manhattan in Central Park.
The stadium matches the sensibilities of its locality; Minneapolis' downtown has both many historic buildings that have been restored and some gleaming new office towers, some of which can be seen in an attractive skyline view from most of the seats along the third-base line. The Twins have tried to capitalize on this view by dubbing many of their upper-deck seats "Skyline Deck" and "Skyline View"; they've been able to fill most of them since the stadium opened in 2010, though the team hasn't been very good since the end of that season.
The stadium is on the smallest footprint in the major leagues -- smaller than Fenway Park or Wrigley Field -- and thus the official seating capacity of 39,504 had to be squeezed in to areas you wouldn't normally find seats. Among those is a three-decked structure in left field that is, in part, an homage to a similar seating area at Metropolitan Stadium. I was in Minneapolis to see a ballgame at the Metrodome on July 30, 1983 and stopped at the then-closed site of the old Met. A gate was open, so I went in:
The main stadium seating area doesn't look all that much different than this triple-decked seating grandstand, which housed the Twins until 1981. Target Field's main seating area also resembles the re-do of Kauffman Field in Kansas City.
Now, that is something they've done differently at Target Field. There's a high-def video board above the third deck and smaller video boards in right field that give player information and show highlights and out-of-town scores; they don't overwhelm you with advertising between innings, one of the nicer touches. Unlike many new parks, they don't bombard you with music or loud PA announcements all the time; some operations departments at newer stadiums seem to believe in the idea that "if there's five seconds of silence on the PA system, that's a bad thing", but Target Field doesn't do this. Occasionally, "CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!" appears on the video boards at what the board operators think are appropriate times, and of course when the word goes away, fans stop clapping. 40 years after this sort of thing began, it's still funny to watch.
There's an open plaza in right field that has statues of Twins heroes Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek. It's a popular congregating area; the concourses are wide enough that you can stand and watch the game while getting food or drink.
Food selections include a lot of local specialties, including a large number of regional craft beers. You can also get a walleye sandwich, if you are so inclined. There's a sports bar (the Town Ball Tavern) in the left-field corner that has the usual bar-type sandwich fare and also pays tribute to local baseball fields in Minnesota with photographs and memorabilia.
Sightlines are good almost anywhere, even high up in the Skyline Deck. Minnesotans are a friendly lot and welcoming to visiting fans; team employees are visible, but not overbearing; they'll help if you need it, but won't shoo you away from a section pregame if you're looking around.
Target Field is well worth a visit; in summer months the Twins draw from many surrounding states, as it's an easy drive from Chicago, Iowa, Wisconsin and points west of Minnesota. One day the Twins will be good enough to host a World Series again.
And that's when they'll wish they had spent the $100 million on a retractable roof.