News emerged Friday that St. Thomas and St. John’s will play their 2017 regular-season football game at Target Field, and more details emerged Monday during a news conference at Target Field. Here are five questions and answers about the game, which is slated for Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 at 1 p.m.:
Football at Target Field? How and why did this come together, anyway?
Twins President Dave St. Peter said he and St. Thomas football coach Glenn Caruso began a casual conversation about the possibility of this game being played at Target Field during a concert several years ago at the Twins ballpark.
St. Peter, who is the son of a St. John’s alum and the parent of a St. Thomas student, was intrigued by the idea of both the rivalry and the ability to bring a non-baseball event to the stadium.
“Ever since Target Field opened we’ve thought a lot about different events we could host here,” St. Peter said. “There have been some college football games in ballparks. There are very few brands that would be big enough to even think about playing at Target Field. … I think the St. John’s/St. Thomas rivalry meets that test.”
But three pieces of timing pushed the wheels in motion: the Twins have a 10-day road trip at the end of September next year; that coincides with the already-scheduled St. Thomas/St. John’s game; and it also coincides with a weekend the Gophers have a bye.
Casual conversations intensified not too long ago. St. John’s coach Gary Fasching, in fact, said the first he heard of the possibility of this event was a few weeks back — and he assumed when there was talk of a venue change it meant either TCF Bank Stadium or U.S. Bank Stadium.
“After seeing the layout, I think it’s really going to be great the way it’s set up,” Fasching said.
Aren’t they worried about tearing up the field for the Twins?
Target Field’s primary tenant, of course, is the Twins. And they have one final regular-season series that starts Sept. 29 against Detroit – six days after a bunch of football players are going to run up and down their field.
But St. Peter expressed confidence in groundskeeper Larry DiVito’s ability to get the field in shape for football and then baseball once again. There will be no restrictions on cleats players can wear.
“Larry came from one of his previous roles at RFK Stadium (in Washington D.C.), and they were going back and forth with baseball and soccer,” St. Peter said. “It’s not identical, but it’s similar in terms of getting the infield playable for our last series of the year.”
What will a football field look like inside Target Field?
As you can see from the seating chart and diagram, the field will run from the area by the first base (Twins) dugout toward the left field corner. Unlike a 2010 game at Wrigley field in which offensive plays were run in only one direction on the field, there will be no such shenanigans at Target Field.
“We have to figure out a way to mount the goalposts, but I think we have a model for that,” St. Peter said. “The mound will come out, and we have to add some padding.”
Caruso did a walkthrough to inspect issues of player safety, where coaches will sit and locker rooms, among other things, and came away satisfied. St. Thomas, by the way, is expected to use the visitors’ clubhouse in spite of being the home team, while St. John’s is expected to use an auxiliary space. The home clubhouse will not be used.
How many fans are they expecting?
St. Peter said he expects there to be at least 20,000 tickets sold, which would break the Division III attendance record of 17,535. Both head coaches said setting the record would be a nice touch. The rivalry had the largest attendance in D-III history until two weekends ago when a UW-Whitewater vs. UW-Oshkosh game broke it.
“I think it’s important for both of our schools,” Fasching said. “I think it shows how many people follow those schools. I know when that was broken a couple weekends ago our people up at St. John’s said, ‘well, we’ll break it the next time we have it on campus.’ And that was before we knew about this.”
Said Caruso: “It’s a great chance to (break the record) and it’s my level of expectation that it gets done. … It’s not a sole reason to do it, but that would be an expectation.”
Student tickets will be $10, while general public tickets will start at $15.
Should we be ready for even more football at Target Field after this game?
St. Peter reiterated that the Twins have had discussions about other football games at Target Field with “regional schools,” including North Dakota State. He said nothing would happen on that front in 2017 or 2018.
“This is admittedly a test for us. We wanted to test college football. We want to see if maybe we can create a model here that will play into November and maybe even December in terms of looking at other college football matchups we could consider,” St. Peter said.
December? Does that mean Target Field would vie for a bowl game?
“That’s probably crazy, but I can assure you we couldn’t even think about that unless we played one game,” St. Peter said. “I’m not promising there will be more than one football game, but it’s very much a test for us next year. We’re confident we can create a special environment.”