Dave St. Peter joined the Minnesota Twins in 1990 and took over as the team president in 2009. He sat down with The Journal to talk the upcoming season, the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field and the Metrodome’s final year.
We’re about to start year 4 at Target Field. How has it gone so far in terms of operating the stadium?
We’re in the throes of an old fashioned Minnesota winter, so as we head toward spring, our first task is to make sure our ballpark is ready to go on April 1. We have an early opener, so the pace is swift. We’re focused on a lot of snow removal right now, but obviously the facility, we believe it will be ready to go and we’re excited about unveiling a variety of new food and beverage options as well as obviously a variety of new players. We’re looking forward to a very, very exciting 2013 season.
So far, the people who doubted that Target Field would do well in the Minnesota weather have been proven wrong.
Obviously, the return of outdoor baseball has been a home run by every measure. The weather challenges or concerns that we have today are no different than what they might have in Cleveland or Detroit or New York or Boston and I see no reason why that trend won’t continue, in terms of the game experience being what it is, and I think people really now understand what we have been missing, for 28 years of playing in the Metrodome. I’m not sure that many fans today would trade Target Field for a facility that has a roof.
We’re about 15 or 16 months away from the 2014 All-Star Game (at Target Field July 15) What goes into that from the Twins standpoint? What are you doing to get ready for it?
There’s a tremendous amount of coordination and a number of logistics that need to be worked on. We work on all of those first and foremost with Major League Baseball. It’s a baseball showcase and event, and we, obviously, as the host community have certain responsibilities to serve as a liaison for baseball in this marketplace. That might be with the city of Minneapolis, it might be with Hennepin County, it might be with the business community, but we’re deep into planning mode. We’ll go into another level of that here after opening day and by the mid to latter part of this summer, I think we’ll be public with what the schedule of events are, with how fans and people throughout the upper Midwest will be able to connect with the All-Star game, whether it be at the ballpark or a multitude of special events that will be taking place.
2014 is going to be a huge year for this area — The Interchange project (which will add a plaza and light rail terminal to north side of the ballpark), Central Corridor will come online — what do you think the Interchange project will add to the fan experience?
I think the Interchange project, and specifically the green lighting of the Central Corridor and ultimately the Southwest Corridor will only be enhancements to Target Field and certainly this part of downtown Minneapolis. Fans over the first three seasons have come to Target Field in big numbers, and many of those fans have come via public transportation, and there’s no doubt that, in surveys with our fans, more and more would like to have the opportunity to take light rail. So I expect Central Corridor to come online in 2014 with huge numbers of Twins fans. I think the same will be said for Southwest Corridor in the future.
To be blunt with you, in order to make that a reality, the Interchange was critical in order to service those plans, yes, pregame, but more importantly postgame in queuing the fans and allowing them to have a good game day experience and get on those trains and get back to their original starting point in a safe, efficient manner.
What’s your expectation for the 2013 Minnesota Twins?
I think we’re going to be better. Clearly, we’re disappointed with the way we’ve played the last two seasons. It’s been out of character in terms of what we pride ourselves in, in terms of a winning tradition. I expect that we’ll be much more competitive. I’d like to think that we can contend. Some of that’s going to be dictated by some of the players brought into our organization and specifically pitchers. I think the future for the Twins organization is very bright. Our minor league system continues to shine and is considered by many to be one of the better minor league systems in the game.
Ultimately, we want to try to win in 2013. We made some moves in the offseason aimed at addressing our pitching staff, so the likes of Kevin Correia, the likes of Mike Pelfrey, the likes of Vance Worley — those guys are going to be very central to that success.
We were just talking about the Dome a minute ago. We found out it’s coming down in about a year from now. Are you going to go to the demolition? Will you have emotions over it?
Like a lot of people who grew up in this region, you can’t help but have emotions, and certainly we have, as an organization, some very special memories of playing in the Metrdome. So depending on what those festivities are, yeah I would fully expect to spend some time there. I called it an office for most of my Twins career. It’s where I officed. It’s where I went to work every single day.
So, as maligned as the facility is, I think history will look back very fondly on the Metrodome, in terms of the amount of big-time events and the amount of people it hosted over its tenure. I was proud to call it home for 20 of my 23 years with the Twins.
You’ve always been known to be accessible to fans. You respond to Twitter (@TwinsPrez) questions, you respond to e-mails. Sometimes, they’re not always the friendliest of questions. Why do you? That’s not typical of all (sports executives).
I think we have a responsibility to be accessible. The Twins, while owned privately by the Pohlad Family, the reality of it is thousands and thousands, if not millions of people, are invested in this franchise. They care about it deeply. In my view, it’s like working for a public trust, and therefor, if somebody asks a question, I feel obligated to try to give an answer.
You’re right. Some of the social media elements can be rather dicey at times. It’s unfiltered. I feel as though there’s an opportunity to break down perceived barriers between say, the team and its fans. I find Twitter to be a really critical form of communication for, certainly, younger generations. It’s the way they’re going to garner their news and information. And unless you play on Twitter and unless you’re active there, I think you’re going to be missing the boat in terms of directly communicating with that segment of our audience.
It’s been a couple rough seasons. Are we close to the end, or is it more like the 1993 to 2001 drought?
I can assure you that in 1995, we didn’t think we were going to prolong it for another four or five years. We had eight straight losing seasons. I feel good about our future. One thing that is safe to say for any team in any sport is there is no guarantees. You have to get it done on the field, and championships are never going to be won on paper, nor are they going to be lost on paper. We like to think we can take some significant steps forward in 2013. We think we can get better. We also know we have to get it done on the field.
I will be very surprised if this franchise is not back into a winning mode at some point over the next two or three seasons. The number of good young players we have coming through our system have me excited, and I think more importantly, I think they’ll have fans excited in the very near future.
People have been pleased with the development that has sprung up around Target Field since it’s been built. Do you foresee the same thing happening on the other side of downtown with the Vikings stadium?
Well, I’d say first and foremost, we have more work to do here around Target Field, but I would say I am encouraged by what’s happening despite perhaps an economy that is far from golden. I think we have seen some nice development, and there is more coming.
Yeah, I think long-term that Downtown East has potential. I think it’s a little bit of a different animal, because, at least with baseball we bring 81 dates and upwards of 2-and-a-half to 3 million people. So bars and restaurants and those types of things I think were a natural and I think it was a benefit to the Warehouse District as well as the North Loop. The new facility, I think, will have some incremental challenges because it’s not going to be quite as active of a facility, but I think if planned well in terms of residential and commercial real estate, I think there are going to be some opportunities on that side of downtown.
The Twins have six of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Dave St. Peter is really excited to see blank. Who are you really excited to see?
Oh boy. I’d start with the guy who is probably closest to getting here, which is Aaron Hicks. He is going to be here on opening day, I would hope, and has a good chance to make this team and has had a good spring.
And Miguel Sano is obviously at the top of that list. We’re really excited about a lot of our minor league players, not just those six. I think we’ve gone a long ways towards really stabilizing our future with the acquisition and draft and trading for a number of really good players.