Justin Morneau scores from third on a sacrifice fly to win the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at the SimonDelivers Park in downtown Minneapolis, the beautiful new home of the Minnesota Twins, as fans jump to their feet and shout:
"What is that awful smell?!"
OK, SimonDelivers is going belly up. But the rest could happen: The Twins are good bets to host the All-Star Game in 2014 or 2016 to showcase the new park, scheduled to open in 2010. And Minnesota's Morneau did score in the 15th inning Tuesday night to win this year's midsummer classic at Yankee Stadium. And -- this is the problem -- the new ballpark is only a soggy pizza box's throw away from the county's Energy From Waste Facility.
Don't say "garbage burner."
"It's not a garbage burner," says Glenn Schmidt, chief engineer at the plant, which burns 1,000 tons of, um, "waste" daily. "It's Energy From Waste."
"Facility," adds maintenance supervisor Jeff Johnson: "Energy From Waste Facility.'"
I met them after I hiked around the stadium Wednesday to check out a tip that "the facility" was giving off the kind of smell you encounter when someone "dies" while using your facilities.
In other words, it wasn't good. And it really wouldn't be good if a national TV audience saw us holding our noses.
It was 85 degrees and windy -- a typical summer day -- as I perambulated the area. It didn't smell good to me, but I have a big smeller, so maybe I was pulling in a scent cloud from a turkey plant near Willmar. I asked people I met along the way how it smelled to them. Some were catching a big whiff. Others, just a sniff.
"It stinks like mildewing filth," said Jennifer Dixon, 36, who was waiting on 7th Street with her husband, Mike, and their children to catch a No. 22 bus. "I don't think people at a ballgame are gonna like it."
Mike did not smell anything. But his eyes were burning a little, he said. Another man, a retired cop named Roger Brown, 66, didn't smell zilch, either.
"I hear it's going to be spectacular," Brown said, watching workers building the park. "I never figured out why they left the Old Met and went inside."
Maybe for the fresh air.
The new ballpark will hold 42,000 fans. The Energy From Waste Facility cranks out 30 megawatts of electricity each day, enough to power 30,000 homes, by burning 200 truckloads of garbage (sorry, waste) each and every day.
The facility, which fired up in 1989, stands right behind where fans will sit along the third base line and operates well within emission limits for cadmium, mercury, lead and other fun stuff. As I walked around the facility Wednesday, I got dust in my eyes, something up my schnozz that made me sneeze and several sharp whiffs of Eau de Hennepin.
It was a big smell, but nothing Sen. Norm Coleman doesn't get a whiff of when he takes out the garbage at the behest of his wife, Laurie (I've seen him do it on a campaign commercial, so it must be true). Everyone's garbage gets pretty rank at this time of year, and all those trucks waiting to dump their load get it all.
The EFW Facility, however, does not stink, according to Schmidt and Johnson, the guys who explained it to me.
"There are no fragrant emissions leaving this facility," Schmidt said, which reminds me of a biffy joke we used to tell in Boy Scouts (never mind). "No particulates, either."
Schmidt said there is a lot of dust around the place now, with both the ballpark and the extension of the light rail line under construction. But Hennepin County uses "nasal rangers" -- people trained to use their snotters to detect maladorous plumes -- to check the facility. And it's OK.
"Because of the heat, the trucks smell more now than in winter," said Dave McNary, assistant director of the county's Solid Waste Division.
"True," said Johnson." You get alongside these trucks, you can't hardly stand it."
"But we've been doing odor monitoring the last four years," McNary said. "It [the big stink] is not leaving our site."
Great news, baseball fans. But since the facility operates 24/7, the county is devising ways to fine-tune the stink just to be on the safe side if an All-Star game or World Series brings big national noses to Minneapolis: things like high-speed doors to keep the smell of the pile inside (there's usually 4,000 tons waiting to burn) and adding chemicals to kill some of the juicy rankness.
In a pinch, they could ask the garbage trucks to back off and let the pile shrink so there isn't as much stench to maybe leak out and waft over the park.
"We take a week to turn over our pit,'' chief engineer Schmidt said. "We could take steps to draw that down."
Personally, I find it wise to turn over my pit daily. But Hennepin is a big county.
"Odor is not a real issue, but we still are looking for ways to improve," McNary said. "We want to be a good neighbor."
So, maybe when Morneau slides across the plate with that winning run in 2014, the fans won't even think about the Energy From Waste.
Nick Coleman • 612-673-4400 firstname.lastname@example.org