Gophers baseball team to open Twins’ Target Field

The Twins’ inaugural game at the 39,504-seat, $440 million Target Field will be a matinee against the Boston Red Sox on April 12. But it will be a Minnesota Gophers game that gets to open the stadium March 27.

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by Devin Henry

After nearly three decades under a drab Teflon roof, itâÄôs obvious the Minnesota Twins are doing everything they can to put the Metrodome years behind them. Target Field, the TwinsâÄô brand new downtown open-air ballpark, pays homage to the clubâÄôs greatest players, World Series successes, Minnesota baseball history and âÄúMinnie and Paul.âÄù As for tributes to the Metrodome, fans will find those, too âÄî at least three small photographs tucked away in a small side hallway. The TwinsâÄô inaugural game at the 39,504-seat, $440 million Target Field will be a matinee against the Boston Red Sox on April 12. Single-game tickets go on sale Saturday. But it will be a Minnesota Gophers game that gets to open the stadium March 27. âÄúI think the Twins successes, this opportunity in this beautiful facility here, only enhances the game of baseball here,âÄù Gophers baseball head coach John Anderson said at a Feb. 24 press conference. âÄúI think young people growing up want âĦ the opportunity to play at Target Field someday or play at the University of Minnesota.âÄù Baseball outdoors The Minnesota Legislature approved funding for a new Twins stadium in May 2006, five years after Major League Baseball had tried to contract the club. The stadiumâÄôs cost increased over the years as the Twins tweaked construction plans. The Twins ownership contributed a third of the funds and Hennepin County, through a .15 percent sales tax increase, paid for the rest. Mortenson Construction built the stadium, which was designed by Populous (then called HOK Sport Venue Event). TCF Bank Stadium was built and designed by the same firms. âÄúItâÄôs the most urban site weâÄôve been challenged with because of its proximity to the core business district of the city,âÄù said Bruce Miller, PopulousâÄô Target Field project manager. âÄúThe view of downtown is spectacular. I think thatâÄôs going to make it a very unique place.âÄù Since construction began, the Twins added more concession and restroom space, a more intricate limestone exterior, a larger, high-definition scoreboard, radiant heaters and a larger canopy over many of the seats in the stadium. Twins spokesman Chris Iles said the heaters and canopy are meant to shield fans âÄî a generation of whom have only watched professional baseball indoors âÄî from the weather. âÄúItâÄôs an outdoor ballpark, but you still have some protection from the elements,âÄù he said. Rain delays will, of course, be part of the game, and postponements and cancellations will be up to the discretion of the head umpire on game days. Ticketing policies will be posted on the Twins Web site, Iles said. But watching, and playing, outdoor baseball is worth the weather risk. âÄúI think itâÄôs going to be a fun time just to play outside in Minnesota,âÄù Gophers outfielder and Minnesota native Michael Kvasnicka said in February. âÄúAnytime that you can play a game outside in a major-league facility, itâÄôs going to be something that not a lot of people get to do.âÄù Uniquely Twins TCF Bank Stadium was heralded as a home exclusively for Gophers football, with maroon and gold and the block Minnesota âÄúMâÄù plastered throughout the building. Likewise, Target Field is uniquely Twins. The large Metrodome murals that honored retired Twins numbers have been replaced by smaller decals, but entrance gates are labeled for them. Bars and dining areas incorporate dedications to Twins greats like Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew, and a bar exclusively for season-ticket holders is named after the TwinsâÄô first home, Metropolitan Stadium, which closed in 1981. Twins logos are found throughout the park, from tiles on the bathroom walls to the ceiling of âÄúHrbekâÄôsâÄù restaurant on the concourse level, which is named for the retired Twins first baseman. Famous television and radio calls from Twins history decorate the wall outside the press box, and the World Series championship trophies from 1987 and 1991 are permanently displayed in the ChampionâÄôs Club for those with season tickets behind home plate. Beyond the outfield seats is the vintage Twins logo featuring the characters Minnie and Paul greeting each other across the Mississippi River, symbolizing the Twin Cities. When a Twins player hits a home run, the sign will light up and the two will appear to shake hands. Like TCF Bank Stadium, concourses on the main level are open to the field of play. In some places, the concourses are nearly twice as large as they were at the Metrodome. Concession stands include Minnesota recipes like steak sandwiches from MurrayâÄôs and Minnesota State Fair foods. HormelâÄôs Dome Dogs have been replaced by hot dogs from another Minnesota company, SchweigertâÄôs, and âÄúDollar-a-DogâÄù games will continue every Monday during the season. The seats have more leg room than at the Metrodome. Seat variations range from padded seats behind home plate to normal plastic seats and those with wooden backs. Like TCF Bank Stadium, Target Field contains metallic bleachers in parts of the outfield. âÄúWe just wanted to have unique seating sections,âÄù Iles said. âÄúThe home run porch feels different than the terrace level.âÄù Tickets going fast The first two Twins games are already sold out, as are tickets to two exhibition games against the St. Louis Cardinals, which sold out in about 20 minutes. Iles said fans looking for tickets Saturday should expect longer wait times than in the past. Target Field has fewer seats than the Metrodome, and the novelty of seeing the new facility will have fans asking more questions and buying tickets in larger quantities than in the past. âÄúThere is unprecedented interest in getting Twins tickets this year,âÄù he said. The popular Rasmussen College Student Night is returning, with tickets in the grandstand and home run porch selling for half price to students on Wednesdays, subject to availability. The Twins have sold about 21,000 season tickets, more than double the record amount at the Metrodome, Iles said. Tickets to the March 27 Gophers game will cost $2, with proceeds going to the Twins Community Fund. Tickets will be capped at 25,000 and will go on sale at 8 a.m., and gates open at 9 a.m. The game will work more like an open house for Target Field, with the public getting its first look at the stadium. âÄúItâÄôs a cosmopolitan, modern building with a very sound reference to the outdoor culture and attitude of Minnesota and this region,âÄù Miller said. âÄúPersonally, IâÄôm very, very pleased.âÄù