The new Target Field in Minneapolis gets its first test run this weekend as the University of Minnesota baseball team hosts Louisiana Tech Saturday afternoon.
The first major league pitch at the Twins' ballpark is just a week away.
Tucked into a corner of downtown, the stadium has shed baseball's suburban roots that trace back to the Bloomington corn fields, where the old Metropolitan Stadium was built 50 years ago.
And, even though the new open-air ballpark is only about a mile from the Metrodome, getting to the game now is going to be a very different experience.
The Minnesota Twins and the city of Minneapolis have a simple message for folks heading out to the new ballpark this summer -- you may want to leave your car and your grill at home.
The sprawling open-air parking lots that ringed Met Stadium, and to a lesser extent, the Metrodome, are gone.
There are some mammoth parking ramps right next door to Target Field. The city's ABC ramps cover more than three city blocks and hold nearly 7,000 cars.
The Twins estimate the average car going to a game hauls about two and a half fans. If you do the math, that's about 17,000 people, or only about 40 percent of Target Field's seating capacity.
If you can't park right next to the stadium, what else can you do?
If you're going to drive to the game, Minneapolis officials say you can probably leave your car where you used to park for Twins games. Mayor R.T. Rybak says Target Field is only about a dozen blocks from the Metrodome, and fans have been parking between the Dome and the warehouse district for years.
"What we want you to do is park in another part of downtown and walk," said Rybak. "Walking is transportation."
But the best option may be to not park at all.
Target Field was built at what you might call the sweet spot for public transit in Minnesota. There's a light rail platform, a commuter rail station and a giant bus terminal literally at the stadium's gates.
The North Star commuter rail line between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis will run special trains to 53 of the Twins' 81 home games this year. The four-car trains haul about 500 people each trip, and transit officials say they can add a fifth car if needed.
"Combining public transportation and getting to the ballpark is sort of the experience."
They're also offering what they call "family pack" fares -- round-trip tickets for two adults and three kids ranging from $8 to $17, depending on how far fans ride.
Thousands more are expected to ride the Hiawatha light rail line from the airport and Mall of America. About 10 percent of the Twins fans at the Metrodome rode light rail to the game, and transit officials expect about the same at Target Field -- although, because every game is likely to be a sellout, the numbers may be higher.
Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons says his agency expects about 4,000 fans per game at the Target Field station.
"I think it'll be popular. I think combining public transportation and getting to the ballpark is sort of the experience," said Gibbons. "If you're from Chicago or New York City, you're accoustomed to taking public transportation to the ball game. I think as people begin to think about Target Field and how they're going to get here to the games, public transit is an option."
If you want to take the bus to Target Field, Metro Transit is adding some additional rides to its schedule.
For home games, a new Route 679 express will run from the Hopkins Crossroad park-and-ride lot to the 7th St. transit center, right next to the stadium.
Metro Transit will also add buses downtown during day games, since transit officials don't think there will be enough capacity on the light rail line for both commuters and fans.
On the other side of downtown, routes 94, 16, 50 and 3 will also offer service directly to Target Field from the east metro.
But those transit services have a downside -- there's no place to set your cooler on the back of a rail car or a 40-foot transit bus.
Then again, tailgating, as Minnesota has long known it, is pretty much over as far as baseball goes. Minneapolis bans fires in its parking ramps and is cracking down on surface parking, hoping to encourage real estate development near the stadium.
"The alternative is the many bars and restaurants that exist in the warehouse district, that will be fun places to go before and after the game," said Joanne Kaufman, head of the Warehouse District Business Association.
"It won't be the same as tailgating, but it will be just as good, and you'll be outside when you get to the game," said Kaufman. "A lot of the places have sidewalk cafes, so once the weather is fabulous out, they'll have their tables out and you can be outside. And almost be tailgating."
At least you can watch the game outside.
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