The new home of the Minnesota Twins will feature a limestone finish, a high-definition scoreboard, a place where fans can watch batting practice without buying a ticket and a 20-foot walk from a train platform into the stadium.
Those were just some of the amenities that were put on display Thursday as the Twins, joined by the architects and politicians who are making the stadium come to life, unveiled the ballpark's design to generally upbeat reviews.
From Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to Gretchen Shanight, an Edina woman who said she still thought the outdoor stadium should have a retractable roof, hundreds of onlookers gawked at drawings of the stadium at the Hennepin County Government Center.
"I'm a roof person," said Shanight, who nonetheless added that the new stadium would be an "asset to the city and the region."
Thursday's ceremony came two days after the Twins announced that they would commit more money to the project to help break an impasse over the sale price between the county and the owners of the 8-acre ballpark site in downtown Minneapolis.
Team and county officials declined to release the additional amount the Twins have promised -- the team is already contributing $130 million to the project -- but said that the move would keep the stadium on schedule for a 2010 opening.
Architects and team officials said the 40,000-seat ballpark would be roomier than the Metrodome, the team's indoor home for two decades, with a larger concourse, wider seats, more leg room and fewer seats per row.
Earl Santee, a principal architect for HOK Sport, the lead architectural firm, promised that "in some ways, it'll have the intimacy of Wrigley Field," the longtime home of the Chicago Cubs and one of the most envied baseball stadiums in America.
"Are we going to win games in this ballpark?" asked a smiling Gail Dorfman, a Hennepin County commissioner. Dorfman, who had opposed the use of a countywide sales tax to help fund the stadium, on Tuesday cast a key vote to move the project along.
"It's a fair ballpark as far as its dimensions," replied Santee.
The new ballpark -- with a distance of 404 feet from home plate to the center-field fence -- has essentially the same on-field dimensions as the Metrodome. But in a sign it may be more friendly to hitters than pitchers, the ballpark will have less foul territory.
A heated field
In an attempt to blend in elements that are unique to Minnesota, officials said the ballpark would feature a limestone finish, seasonal plantings atop the outfield fence and a tribute to Twins players from the past.
Santee said that fans could watch the game from indoor areas scattered throughout the stadium and that the field would be heated, meaning that mid-April snowfalls like the one that hit the Twin Cities on Wednesday would melt before accumulating.
Jerry Bell, the Twins' lead stadium negotiator, meanwhile, promised that ticket prices -- while still not set -- would not be "a great deal different" than those currently at the Metrodome.
"It really looks small," Mike Rodriguez, a Minneapolis resident, said as he studied the drawings. "[But] it looks really interesting."
Mike Kaszuba 612-673-4388 firstname.lastname@example.org