I had a chance to see Target Field this past weekend. It was kind of like Dorothy entering Oz. I went from the colorless concrete of the city to the bright colors and dazzle of Target Field just by walking through a door.
Living in St. Paul, I never drive in or out of the city on 394, so I am totally unfamiliar with the neighborhood that Target Field is in. When they originally announced the location of the new ballpark I drove around the area and couldn’t find the space they were planning to use. Until I could see the structure from the freeway I had no idea where to even look. Before going to Target Field on Sunday I went on the Web site and read all the directions and suggestions for driving and parking. I decided to take the 5th Street exit off 94 and drive all the way through downtown. This would bring me in on the north side of the stadium and there seemed to be blocks of metered parking available.
The first thing I found was that 5th Street doesn’t go all the way through. So I cut up to 7th Street and then back down to 5th Street past Target Center. I found Target Field and I saw parking meters but none were open. So I took a right, thinking I would go around the block. I had to go about three blocks before I could cut back up. Again I passed some meters but none were open. So I took another right on some street and drove for several blocks before realizing that I was entering 394 West. Now, it was not a problem on a leisurely Sunday morning to take 394 to Penn, turn around, and come back in to downtown. I had plenty of time and was in exploration mode anyway—but if I was on my way to the game and had to deal with the traffic on 394 heading out and coming back in I would have been really frustrated. Anyway, coming back in I decided I would drive right into the parking ramp there. I parked in Ramp A ($9.00 event parking) and went to Level 3. I was able to get right into the skyway and followed the signs to Target Field. There was a stairway that suggested I could get to Target Field, so I took that and came out right on the plaza outside Target Field. The only problem is that I still have no idea where I am going to park the first time I go to a game.
Walking into Target Field for the first time was incredible. Everything is open and you can see the field from all of the concourses. The grass was still covered with what they are referring to as a “skin,” so we didn’t even have the green field to add to the experience. There is a large open plaza outside Target Field and another large open space once you get inside the main gates. I can only describe the feeling as euphoric.
Saturday’s event was for season ticket holders; the first chance the general public will have to get into Target Field is this coming Saturday, March 27, when the University of Minnesota’s baseball team plays a game there. The gates open at 9 a.m.; tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. Admission is $2.00, and all proceeds go to the Twins Community Fund. Attendance is capped at 25,000. The Gophers game starts at 1 p.m. and seating will be general admission.
Target Field is not the only baseball news this week. It has been a busy spring for the Twins, culminating Sunday with two big announcements: Joe Nathan will have surgery and will be out for the season, and Joe Mauer has signed an eight-year, $184 million contract. The Twins have also signed contracts this spring with Michael Cuddyer (extending his contract through 2011), Nick Blackburn (four years, $14 million), and Denard Span (five years, $16.5 million).
But in many ways Target Field is still the big story for the Twins right now, because you know that they would not be able to spend this kind of money for players if they were still playing in the Metrodome. They need the revenue that the new stadium will generate to make this budget balance. Joe Mauer will earn over $40,000 every time he comes up to bat! This makes me sad for everyone because it is so out of balance with what the average person earns. But the Twins had no choice but to sign Mauer. They were really in a hard spot. It is hard to imagine that they have committed almost 25 percent of their entire player salary budget to one player—and that is with a $100 million salary budget. To put this in perspective, Joe will earn in one year about $7 million more than the Twins’ entire roster earned in 2000. But it was impossible to imagine Joe Mauer leaving the Twins—leaving his family, leaving his home town. If the Twins had let that happen, the negative repercussions would have been devastating to a team riding high on the wave of excitement that Target Field has generated.
Photo courtesy Anna Daugherty