The Minnesota Twins' beat the Boston Red Sox 5-2 Monday night in front of nearly 40,000 fans at their first official game at Target Field, and team officials say the game also went well behind the scenes.
Although the concourses at Target Field are much wider than at the Metrodome, there were still quite a few bottlenecks. A few hours before the Twins took the field, throngs of fans clogged the main concourse looking for food, looking for their seats and pausing to gawk at their surroundings.
There were long lines next to specialty food vendors like the Kramarczuk sausage stand. A fan could expect to pay as much as $11 for a beer and a bag of peanuts. And some fans, like Jeff Sheehan, said there were challenges getting to the ballpark.
"Well it was a little busy - a little full in a lot of the lots down around town here," Sheehan said. "Because it's a work day, you're going to get a lot of the people who are working."
Sheehan said he'd also like to see a more detailed scoreboard along the first base line, so fans in the left field stands that can't see the main scoreboard can follow game statistics like the pitch count.
But Sheehan really wasn't complaining standing in the upper deck along a railing overlooking the field and downtown Minneapolis, the late afternoon sun is shining on his face, a cold beer in each hand and his team was winning.
It was an opening day like none other in the Twins history. Fans began arriving hours before the gates opened at noon. There were ceremonies celebrating past players and pennants.
And of course there was a ballgame.
The Twins took an early lead and held on to it, thanks to a couple of big days from Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel. Mauer had three hits, including two doubles and he drove in two runs. Kubel also got three hits including the first regular season homerun at Target Field. Pitcher Carl Pavano pitched six strong innings, giving up four hits and one earned run.
Following the game, St. Paul-native Joe Mauer explained the significance of playing in the team's brand new ballpark. Mauer grew up a Twins fan and said he's been looking forward to this day just as much as any fan.
"It's tough to describe to my teammates because I know people here have been waiting for a long time for this," Mauer said. "It's definitely a special place and I'm glad it's here."
His teammates, some of whom just arrived here within the last year or so, are also feeling the home ballpark vibe. Newly-appointed closer Jon Rauch said he got a jolt from fans cheering for him last year at the Metrodome, but this is particularly fun.
"Just to be out in the new ballpark, new atmosphere and seeing all the support from the fans - it's huge for us," Rauch said.
The new ballpark didn't come cheap. Target Field cost $545 million, most of that being raised from a Hennepin County sales tax. The team originally promised to contribute $130 million, but the Twins' share has since increased to $195 million.
The team is still making minor improvements to the ballpark. Twins president Dave St. Peter said the team got feedback about what they could do better after the first two exhibition games the team played at Target Field last weekend.
"We painted a couple columns out in center field. We tweaked a little bit of scoreboard elements out in center field to aid the batter's eye," St. Peter said. "Off the field, in the stands, it was more about audio systems. It was more about trying to do a better job of managing concession lines and do a better job of training our concession workers to move people quickly."
The Twins home stand at Target Field continues with two more afternoon games against the Red Sox later this week.