As has become customary this time of year — and has also caught on with other local pro teams — the Twins offered the media a preview Tuesday of the new specialty food and drink items being offered up at Target Field this season.
The more cynical among us — fans and reporters alike — might note the timing of the food unveiling offers a nice distraction from what could be another difficult season on the field, while the new drink options might help the thirstier patrons drown their sorrows this year.
But let’s be clear: this is big business, and this is the way modern sports work. That’s particularly true of baseball. As games have grown longer and attention spans have grown shorter, ballgames have evolved from sporting events with a little socializing on the side to social events with a little sports on the side.
That’s not true for everyone, but it’s true enough of a lot of Target Field patrons to make food and drink choices a big deal. If the Twins can make Target Field a one-stop shop for dinner, drinks and baseball, why wouldn’t they want you there as long as possible?
This year’s new offerings seem to be aimed at two audiences: fans in their 20s and 30s (I won’t cheapen it by saying “millennials,” because that word has achieved some negative qualities) and fans who will pay more for a unique or upscale product.
New drink options are plentiful. Hrbek’s offers a “College Daze Bloody Mary,” which comes with the usual cheeses, meats and pickles, but also a slice of cold pizza. For $19, it will test the resolve of thrifty Minnesotans, but one fan on the tour dubbed it the “breakfast of champions.”
A local craft spirits kiosk in section 111 features drinks from Minnesota distillers Panther and Du Nord, while the popular Barrio has taken up residence down the left field line with a new space serving food and drinks — while smartly putting outlets and USB ports underneath patron seats at the bar, mitigating the biggest worry some fans have: will their phone battery die?
One of the new food stars is Red Cow, a popular local burger spot that now has a cart near section 126. I tried the 60-40 burger (60 percent Angus beef, 40 percent ground bacon), and it was magnificent. Andrew Zimmern’s Canteen, which opened in the ballpark in 2013, has new sandwich offerings and a bigger space.
In all, it’s an impressive new lineup.
Whether the Twins can boast the same is another matter, but for a lot of fans it just doesn’t matter.