Monday, April 12, 2010

Opening Day at Target Field

The Minnesota Twins having their Opening Day at the new Target Field today. An open air stadium with real grass in Minnesota should be interesting, especially if they make the playoffs in late September and October. As a baseball purist, I think that's the way it should be. Football, though never ideal, can pull it off, whereas Baseball in a dome with turf is just plain wrong.

I will be interested to see what manner of reviews Target Field gets. Granted, anything was an improvement on the old Metrodome monstrosity. I know it had its fans, but it was loud and looked like a big garbage can. I am curious because I think Target field is a bit of a shift in terms of baseball park architecture of the last 20 years.

From the 1960s to the early 1980's, the theory for building baseball parks was primarily the "multiplex" where numerous sports could share one super facility. This was largely a disaster on numerous levels, as most cities rushed to build what became diminutively termed "cookie cutter" stadiums. They were large, soulless buildings that often resembled cosmic spaceports with a lot of 60's concrete slabs and overhangs. They were often built away from downtown areas, and moved out to a glorified parking lot in the 'burbs somewhere. Worst of all, most of them looked exactly alike, hence the term.

In the 1980's, when the cookie cutter stadiums became to run down, there was some thought as to starting to return to the one-sport only facility. That allowed for a little character, but still they were largely soulless superplexes, like going to a huge movie theatre. It had all the modern amenities, but the facilities, like the then New Comiskey Park, still didn't have a lot of unique character that attracted cult sports venue followings like the old Fenway Park in Boston or Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Around 1990, the Baltimore Orioles decided to go back to the idea of having a stadium downtown. Also, they intentionally designed the then-new Camden Yards stadium to look like a "retro" stadium from the glory days of baseball. They built a lot of brick facades, and made it feel like something from the 1930's or 1940's. And Baltimore did it very well, as it is still one of the finest "retro" baseball stadiums, even after 20 years of starting that fad in other Major League venues. Many cities rebuilt retro stadiums, each having some character and quirkiness. This ranged from Turner Field in Atlanta to the still relatively new stadiums in Detroit, Seattle, and Pittsburgh. All of these new stadiums tried to create a unique and vintage looking baseball stadium while capturing local flavor. While I haven't visited many of the new ones, I think they largely succeeded.

The retro phase I believe (unfortunately) has begun to wane in favor of a new breed of unique but modern facilities like the new stadiums in New York and now the new Target field which opens today in Minnesota. They are certainly not the soulless cookie cutter stadiums of the early 1960's but I fear they are moving back into the 1980's mold of erring on the side of modern amenities and comfort and not focusing so much on having a "retro" look and feel.

The pictures I have seen of the new Target field would seem to bear that out. I plan on attending a game in June, and I will make my final assessments them. From what I have seen, however, the new Target field does not seem to be in the same league of character that many of the unique retro stadiums of the last 15 years seemed to have achieved. Maybe that suits Minnesotans. I do not know.

Like I said, anything was an improvement on the Metrodome. At least the new Target Field has a view of the skyline.

No comments: