We have heard many lamentations from local sports fans about the quality of local professional teams.

I'm not sure many places have better arenas than we do.

The St. Paul Saints' new ballpark, CHS Field, belongs in the same sentence and area code as the Xcel Energy Center, Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, the blooming Vikings stadium, Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena, In some ways, because it is so small and unique, it is as good as any of them.

My column for the Friday paper (and online at startribune.com, of course) will feature the thoughts of fans, owner Mike Veeck, manager George Tsamis, former Twin Al Newman (who threw batting practice) and a player or two.

For now, let me offer a first impression as the first pitch in the new ballpark approaches:

They got this right. Veeck pointed out the beautiful woodwork on upper deck. Most remarkable, that woodwork is on full display when you walk on the main concourse and look up at the upper deck. Veeck said the idea was to turn the nearby warehouse district ``inside out,''  and that is a perfect description.

I covered Tsamis when he pitched for the Twins in the mid-'90s, and we had a few beers on the road together. He kept turning the conversation toward winning. As much as Veeck talks about fun, Tsamis feels the pressure to win, and to draw fans with baseball as well as promotions and pranks.

Again, more to come in tomorrow's paper and online.