Patrick Reusse: Put a lid on it? Ambivalence remains over roof

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 2, 2011 - 11:23 PM

Target Field remains a treat for baseball fans, but what of those who drive hours only to find the weather has called off the festivities?

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Friday night at Target Field saw a weather delay of more than two hours. No such delay would have been necessary had the Twins built a retractable roof.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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The Twins played their 35th game at Target Field on Saturday night. There have been three postponements and two rain delays. The latest of those came Friday when the start was pushed back two hours in anticipation of a thunderstorm that eventually showed up.

The wet weather has been a contrast to 2010, when the Twins returned to outdoor baseball and had one rainout, one suspension after five innings and no rain delays in a full season.

On Saturday, there were 41,378 ticketholders -- the largest regular-season crowd so far in Target Field -- to enjoy Twins-Brewers and a spectacular evening. And several were quizzed as to whether they might have looked differently at a trip to the ballpark on a holiday weekend if the Twins still were playing inside a dome.

"We wouldn't be here," George Toops said. "We would be on a lake."

Toops and his wife, Kim, come from New London-Spicer. He was at Target Field for the fifth time in 1 1/2 years. This was Kim's debut.

"On a day like this ... over the Fourth of July weekend?" Kim said. "If the Twins still were playing in the Metrodome, nobody would've mentioned going to the game. And we're a baseball family."

It is a 95-mile drive from New London to downtown Minneapolis. George was asked whether, as a Twins fan and occasional attendee, he regrets the absence of a retractable roof at Target Field.

"That's a tough one," he said. "When they were getting ready to build the ballpark, I thought that absolutely there should be a retractable roof. But this facility turned out so perfect. ... I'm kind of happy we didn't get a roof."

Neil and Shannon Brekke and 2 1/2-year-old Judson were making a second annual visit to Target Field. They live in St. James, 120 miles away.

"We probably would be at Lake Hanska, doing something on the water," Neil said. "We wouldn't be in Minneapolis for a ballgame."

That doesn't mean his bride is fully converted. "I think it would be good to have a retractable roof as an option," Shannon said. "When you drive to Minneapolis, it's nice to know for sure there's going to be a ballgame."

Gregg and Danita Warner from Verona, Wis., were among the several thousand Brewers fans in attendance. They hold a 20-game ticket package to Miller Park, with its retractable roof.

Asked if the Twins made a mistake by not figuring out a way to add a retractable cover, Gregg said: "It's far too early to tell. It's a nice ballpark. And with perfect conditions like this, it's easy to say, 'Who needs a roof?'

"I have to tell you, as Brewers fans, we think the roof is great. We drive an hour and 20 minutes, and when we get there, the game's on, as scheduled."

This season, the roof has been closed for 26 of the Brewers' 40 home games.

"There are times when you get there and wonder, 'Why is the roof closed tonight?' " Danita said. "But that's not much of a problem, compared to games that could be postponed by rain or cold without the roof."

All it has taken is a degree of encouragement on the field for Wisconsin fans to embrace the Brewers and their ballpark with the roof option. Miller Park opened in 2001 with 2.8 million tickets sold, then woeful ballclubs dropped attendance to 1.7 million within two years.

Bud Selig and his family sold the Brewers to Mark Attanasio before the 2005 season. The Brewers reached .500 that season for the first time since 1992.

In 2007, they contended for the playoffs for a hunk of the schedule. In 2008, they brought in CC Sabathia as a rent-a-superstar and reached the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.

The Brewers will reach 3 million in tickets sold for the third time in four years, if they remain in contention in a compacted NL Central race.

Jared Woinarowicz and his fiancé, Ashley Mertens, made the long drive from East Grand Forks and were greeted with a sensational night.

"This is great, but to drive as far as we have to to see the Twins and have a rainout ... that would be terrible," Mertens said.

Miller Park looks like a jumbo jet hangar from the outside. Would it bother you to trade that look for what the Twins have in Target Field?

The young couple thought for a moment. "Not really," Woinarowicz said. "I'd take the roof."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. • preusse@startribune.com

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