That Target Field was built on an 8½-acre wedge of land in downtown Minneapolis is considered miraculous, and the resulting ballpark intimate. That snugness is part of its charm, and makes it worthy of the 2014 All-Star Game that its success has delivered.
Just one problem: The All-Star Game doesn’t do “cozy.”
“It’s a massive, massive event, about 10 times bigger than the one in the Metrodome” in 1985, said Matt Hoy, the Twins’ senior vice president for operations, and the team’s point man on the 2014 event. “It’s a little intimidating when you see what it’s grown into, how many moving parts there are. And fitting all of them into our space is going to be an enormous challenge.”
So is the clock. First pitch of the 85th All-Star Game is only 362 days away, and now that Hoy, team President Dave St. Peter and 30 other Minnesotans have returned from closely observing how the Mets staged Tuesday’s game in New York, there is a baseball term that sums up their responsibility:
“It’s all ours,” Hoy said. “Basically, we’ll be working on All-Star preparations every day for the next year, and believe me, a lot of days it doesn’t seem like enough time.”
That’s because, while the event was born as a showcase eight decades ago for baseball’s best players, it has turned into a weeklong festival of the game, part Shriners convention and part World’s Fair. The Twins get to stage a baseball game, but that’s merely the climax of a three-page timeline of events:
Start with a lavish invitation-only night-before gala for 5,000 VIPs — that one was held on the retired aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York. Then add in another party of roughly the same size, on the evening of the game.
No invitation to those? Well, there’s a 5K race. There’s a Habitat for Humanity project, and nearly a dozen different charity events. The Futures Game, for baseball’s best minor league prospects, attracts a near-sellout crowd on Sunday. There’s a fantasy camp for All-Star wannabes. Mascots hold a charity softball game to entertain kids, and B-list celebrities stage one to entertain TV viewers. Monday means Home Run Derby, which has grown into an event almost as big as the game itself. And then there is FanFest — “We call it TwinsFest on steroids,” Hoy jokes — which occupies nearly a half-million square feet of convention center floor space for events, autograph and photo sessions, interactive exhibits, and one of the world’s biggest baseball flea markets.
Too bad the Metrodome will be rubble by then, right?
“Oh, the Dome wouldn’t be big enough, not even close, really,” Hoy said. “We never made it part of our bid proposal.”
Decorating the town
The first event to kick off All-Star ’14 comes later this month, when the Twins and MLB unveil the event’s official logo, which will be plastered everywhere, including on the center field wall and, next year, on the shoulders of Twins uniforms. It’s also the first real public evidence of a coordinated branding effort that soon will blanket the city.
“In New York, I don’t care what you do, it has a tendency to get lost” or drowned out, St. Peter said. “We clearly intend to paint the town.”
MLB will decorate downtown Minneapolis and plenty of hotel lobbies with All-Star banners, probably the airport, too, and maybe more venues such as the Mall of America and the light-rail system. Behind-the-scenes, planning will go on for many other aspects, progress of which fills dozens of volumes in Hoy’s office.
The Twins must develop a transportation plan, for instance, to deliver thousands of visitors to the various events, and to hotels. They are organizing a parade of all-stars to the stadium, coordinating an enormous security effort between a half-dozen different agencies, and discussing traffic issues, given that it will be a normal work week at most downtown businesses. The City Council must approve a “clean zone” to prohibit ambush marketing by non-sponsors, and extra enforcement of counterfeit merchandise laws. Ticket pricing, availability and distribution is always a thorny issue — strips of tickets covering all events figure to average around $500 (though the Twins haven’t announced prices yet), and MLB sponsors and Twins season-ticket holders get dibs.
The Twins’ own schedule must be worked out, Home Run Derby and batting practice uniforms designed, tailored and merchandised, and providing perks for the many stars hired to entertain is no small consideration, either. Even the grass must be cut into an approved pattern.