Finally. An effort that began in 1994 was capped Monday, April 12, 2010, at Target Field as the new ballpark on the westside of downtown Minneapolis opened for the Twins first official game. Through the years there were many possible ballpark sites, contraction ideas, franchise relocation ideas, all kinds of nonsense. But now the Twins finally have a fantastic new home in Minnesota, and I had the fortune to be there for the first regular season game on a gorgeous sunny, 65-degree afternoon as the Twins beat Boston 5-2.
Target Field is crammed into a small lot just west of Target Center. Most visitors to the ballpark will come from the downtown side of the ballpark. The downtown side of the ballpark is also the outfield side of the stadium. So what that means is that many people may not see the home plate corner. It’s worth a walk around though just to get a sense of how small the site is (there are BNSF railroad tracks that line the westside). Target Plaza in the right field corner is the main gathering point and home to two of the stadium entrances. The left field corner is where the light rail stops within feet of the ballpark. A “Twins Touch” to the gates is that they bear the numbers of the Twins who have had their numbers retired by the club.
What’s cool about the property being so small is that if you come from downtown Minneapolis you don’t see the ballpark until it is right in front of you. That creates a much more urban feel to Target Field than stadiums that can be seen with an unobstructed view from miles away.
Like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Target Field’s exterior is covered in Minnesota limestone. While PNC Park has a more traditional look to it, the limestone on the exterior of Target Field has a rough, abstract look. For the time being anyway, I like this. It makes Target Field unique from the more traditional exteriors that the newer ballparks have had with brick. However, I wonder in the long run if the novelty value of it will wear off and I will ask myself, “What were they thinking?”
Statues have been placed in several spots around the ballpark, there are murals on the exterior of the left field wall, and there is also the Golden Glove. This is the most popular photo spot at Target Field and short lines form as people take turns sitting in it. There is also a nearby plaque with a list of all of the Twins Gold Glove winners. The Twins also have areas on Target Plaza dedicated to past ballparks in the Twin Cities, and a legacy wall that includes the name of every player who’s played for the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins make sure to get every penny they can from you on a visit to the new stadium. The biggest team store is located in the right field corner but there are several throughout the ballpark. A little nicer than the tiny stands that were on the Metrodome concourses.
The Twins will get your money at the concession stands too, but the selections are fantastic, and unique to Minnesota. They really have a lot of variety! For $11 I tried Walleye on a Spike from the State Fair stand in Center Field. It was really good. My parents had Shrimp on a Stick and Pork Chop on a Stick, which they gave favorable reviews. The concessions lines don’t obstruct traffic on the concourses like they used to at the Metrodome either. With a couple of isolated exceptions pedestrian traffic within the ballpark seemed to flow pretty well.
The views from the upper levels of the ballpark are quite nice. From the third base side, the Minneapolis skyline. From home plate and first base, direct views of the scoreboard and the very nice “Minnie and Paul” animated sign in Center Field. Also on the top level is a pub where the stadium organist plays just feet away from patrons.
For the opener our seats were in Section 129 in the Left Field Bleachers. Good seats. We felt like we were close to the action, and the last couple of rows were in the shade all afternoon long. Even though it’s bench seating, there are backrests and the seats seemed to be plenty wide even for a sold out game. These are also great seats for people who take the light rail as they are just a few feet from the light rail stop. If you drive, I suggest parking several blocks away and walking to Target Field. There are plenty of downtown parking ramps. I suspect that parking in ramps A, B, or C right next to the ballpark would involve a considerable wait to leave after a soldout game.
Standing room abounds on the main level. Great views can be had from all areas of the outfield and the infield too. In the infield though, standing room areas and the last few rows of seats may have a bit of an obstruction for fly balls as the upper levels hang over. Make sure to check out the old Met Stadium flagpole in the Right Field corner.
Another unique feature of the ballpark is the canopy on the top of the stadium. It will provide a bit of shelter from the elements for fans up there, but it also looks pretty cool, and is unique. The lights for the stadium are actually inside the canopy, so no light towers at this yard.
I have now been to 31 MLB parks, 24 of them active. Of the ones I’ve been to I would only rank AT&T Park, PNC Park, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards ahead of Target Field when it comes to ballparks built in the last twenty years. I have no complaints with Target Field, but I still have to give AT&T and PNC the nod due to their spectacular views, and to Camden Yards because of its significance in ballpark history. Give the Twins credit, they found a way to get a ballpark that is unique in many ways, and is tailored to Minnesota traditions. Some of the newer ballparks have become cookie-cutters themselves, this is not one of them.
Target Field is a really, really nice stadium, especially when you compare it with its predecessor. Twins fans, and non-Twins fans who visit Target Field in the coming years will not go home disappointed!