Countdown to opening day

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March 15, 2010 // UPDATED 8:27 am - March 15, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
// Metro Transit gears up for Target Field rush //

They’ve talked the talk. Now it’s time to see if they can walk the walk — or conveniently ride the commuter train, light rail or bus.

With both transit authorities and team officials touting the new Twins stadium as “the most transit-oriented ballpark in America,” baseball fans are expecting their commute to and from the April 12 home opener against the Boston Red Sox to be a smooth one. But with the crush of fans descending on the North Loop — stadium officials are expecting a sell-out crowd of 40,000 — the city’s public transit system will be put to the test. Spokesman Bob Gibbons has been busy assuring everyone that Metro Transit is ready for the challenge. But he also warned that fans need to be realistic about the crowds.

“Not everyone can go home 30 seconds after the last pitch,” he said. Historically, public transit has served on average 12 percent of the attendance at any given Twins game, Gibbons said.

But that was at the Metrodome. With the increased attention the new stadium has drawn to transit options, he expects the 2010 numbers to be much higher, especially for the opening series against Boston. So a big-picture goal, he said, beyond adding bus lines and increasing frequency, is encouraging baseball fans to linger a little longer in the neighborhood, to spread out the demands made on the transit system.

“We’re saying, come early, stay late,” Gibbons said. “Go into the Warehouse District for a post-game beverage. Come early, and stop in the North Loop for a sandwich.”

Metro Transit has shuffled services a bit to accommodate the new stadium. Gibbons said a new bus route has been created exclusively for Twins home games. The route, which connects Downtown to the western suburbs via Interstate 394, will offer nonstop service from Hopkins Crossroad to the lower level of Target Field Parking Ramp A, on 7th Street. Service will begin two hours before each home game and will operate for one hour after the last out.

From the East, Gibbons said, fans can take any of the high-frequency bus routes already in existence: route 94 via Interstate 94, routes 16 and 50 via University Avenue and route 3 via Como Avenue. All buses arrive in Target Field Parking Ramp  B, on 5th Street. And in some case, Gibbons said, “during rush hour it’s a bus every seven minutes.”

Coming from the north, the Northstar Commuter Rail, which connects Big Lake to Downtown, will serve 53 of the 81 home games. These games include the entire opening series, every weekend game and every weeknight game from June through August.

“We are in the process of developing a Northstar Round-Trip Family Pass that would provide discounted Northstar train rides,” Gibbons said.

The discount tickets must be purchased directly on the train platform for an immediate ride, he noted, and can be useful for outings other than Twins games.

The Hiawatha Light Rail will be the best option if you’re coming from the south, as trains arrive every seven minutes and pass through several park-and-ride lots. The light rail line has been extended from the North Loop station to continue directly to Target Field.

And for those fans who want to bring their car Downtown?

“The past may be your guide,” Gibbons said. “Where you parked at the Metrodome may be a perfectly fine place to park to access Target Field.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch to walk the 12 blocks down 7th Street, Gibbons said. But he pointed out that taking the light rail from the Dome to Target Field would cost only 50 cents, as the whole trip falls in the discounted Downtown fare zone.

“The caution there, though, is those trains are going to be really full, because they will have already picked up passengers coming up from the south,” he said. “So the secret may be those high frequency buses” — the 16, the 50 and the 3 — “coming directly down 4th Street. So if you’re worried about whether you’re going to be able to sandwich onto a crowded train, 4th Street might be a thought.”

Or just hop on your bike, if the weather’s nice. Target Field boasts more than 300 bicycle parking options, and Cedar Lake Trail leads directly to the stadium.


Lowdown on tickets


“Pretty much the only way to guarantee you’re going to get an opening day seat at this point is a full season ticket plan,” said Chris Iles, corporate communications manager for the Twins.

And this will probably be the case for the rest of the 2010 season, as well. Single game tickets were scheduled to go on sale on March 13, and at press time it was not known if any remain. The team had expected to sell out all home games. (Tickets to the Twins’ two spring training games, April 2 and 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals, sold out in 20 minutes.)

Season tickets will be available up to and through opening day. Tickets are offered in an 82 game, full-season plan, a 40 game plan and a 20 game plan. Prices range from $200 per seat to $1,640 per seat.

Season ticket packages come with a number of benefits, including access to the Metropolitan Club, a private lounge in the ballpark reserved for season ticket holders, and a guaranteed opportunity to purchase tickets to any post-season games the Twins might play in. In addition, season ticket holders will be invited to a pair of early open house events at the stadium, on March 20 and 21.


Golden Gopher Open House: March 27

If you don’t want to commit to a season ticket package, you can still get in to see an early baseball game at Target Field, as well as to get a sneak peak at the facilities. And you can do it on the cheap.

The Twins have announced that the first baseball game to be played at Target Field will take place on March 27, when the University of Minnesota hosts Louisiana Tech. Tickets, which cost only $2, will be sold exclusively on the day of the game, at all Target Field ticket locations, beginning at 8 a.m. The game starts at 1 p.m.

Attendance will be capped at 25,000. Gates to the Target Field will open at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.

The Louisiana Tech game will be the first chance the general public has to explore Target Field.

“What better way to have an open house than to have a baseball game being played while you’re walking around the park,” said Kevin Smith, Twins executive director of public affairs.


Bracing for the elements

Given how notoriously unpredictable the April weather tends to be in Minnesota — the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Climatology Working Group reports a 20 degree difference between the mean daily high (56 degrees) and low (36 degrees) for April 12 — opening day may give Target Field a chance to test some of its climate controlling features.

The concessions, restrooms and restaurant and lounge areas will all be heated, said Iles, and the entire main concourse will be equipped with a radiant heat feature similar to those found within certain bus stops. So if the temperature drops, fans can duck into the heated concourse and still see the game.

In addition, Target Field claims to have one of the largest roof canopies in Major League Baseball. The canopy can provide a bit of protection from sun and rain for the upper rows of seats.



Make a plan
Visit destinationtargetfiled.com, the Twins’ clearinghouse of information for game-day transportation issues, to form your plan.