Dave St. Peter sets up the joke, then delivers the punchline before any smart-aleck Twins fan can beat him to it. The team has spent a lot of time brainstorming ways to make Target Field, already a jewel among big-league ballparks, even better, St. Peter says, before rushing to add, “I’m sure some people think we should spend more of that time improving our pitching.”
Good one. But as the Twins and their team president have discovered, even the worst starting pitching in decades seems more palatable outdoors, with a Summit in one hand and a Kramarczuk’s in the other.
“It we were playing at the Metrodome and coming off consecutive 95-plus-loss seasons, I don’t think I’d be forecasting more than 2.5 million fans coming to see us,” St. Peter said. “We’d be hard-pressed to get 1.5 million. But Target Field has become a showcase. People want to be here.”
That includes the players. “It’s only been three years, but it feels like more of a home than the Dome did,” said Joe Mauer, who spent the first six years of his big-league career playing under that Teflon roof. “It’s hard to see how it could be any better.”
On that point, St. Peter disagrees with his hometown star. Target Field “has gone through four Minnesota winters now, and we’re starting to see some evidence of that. So we’re having to repaint some areas, replace some carpet, fix some seats,” he said. “We are addressing issues of maintenance, cleanliness, all those things. Trying to be attentive to detail so fans on Opening Day still see it as brand new.”
And some things really are brand new. Unique menu items have been added at concession stands throughout the park, several of the memorabilia displays have been updated, some of the artwork has been swapped out.
The biggest change, however, is in the right field corner, where the Twins removed roughly 700 seats and replaced them with seven rows of “drink rails,” holding about 230 fans who can stand, sit on bar stools or mingle. The change, which reduces the official capacity of Target Field from 39,500 to 39,021, already is popular, St. Peter said. “We’re already about 85-90 percent sold out in those sections,” he said, with several large groups buying the tickets for company events.
Those sections were the least popular in the old configuration, St. Peter said, because their view of right and center field was obstructed. That problem was solved by installing a platform that raises them and makes the sections distinct from their surroundings. The Twins also hope that reducing the capacity will ease a foot-traffic bottleneck that tends to develop in that area as fans file in from Gate 34.
“Target Field has earned its keep as one of the best ballparks in baseball,” St. Peter said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep improving the fan experience inside.”