On top of the world!

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July 19, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
// Halfway through Target Field’s inaugural season, enthusiasm still soars and complaints are hard to find //

No one, it seems — not local business owners, not area condo residents, not fan experience analysts, not even the sometimes-snarky food critics who end up at a game — can find a single bone to pick with the new Twins’ stadium.

At Target Field, the All Star break came and went on a tsunami of praise. In early July, the stadium ranked number one on ESPN The Magazine’s prestigious Ultimate Standings 2010, a sweeping assessment of the nation’s 122 professional sports teams that gauges “how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them.”

Two weeks later, a front-page story in the Star Tribune confirmed the hugely beneficial economic impact the stadium has had on area business and government. Initial skeptics ate their words, citing full cash drawers at bars and restaurants and big tax revenue for the city.

The gushing appeared universal. Notes of cynicism were hard to find.

Anna Larsson, a North Loop mom, worried about the congestion and parking competition the stadium would bring when we spoke to her before opening day. Today, Target Field hasn’t posed any problems.

“Sadly, I can’t really counter the unchecked enthusiasm,” she said. “The parking isn’t much of an issue, and part of the reason for that is that most of the folks in our neighborhood already have dedicated parking spots.

“And the commute, I just put in my calendar whenever I know there’s going to be a home game in the evening. I take a back route, and you know, it’s not terrible. We notice that there are more people in the neighborhood, at bars and restaurants. But we’re excited about that. We don’t feel shut out.”

Even the stadium’s food has been a hit, with culinary contrarians like Mpls.St. Paul Magazine’s Andrew Zimmern praising local offerings like Kramarczuk sausages, J. D. Hoyt pork chops and Loon Café chili.

And here’s where the praise rings a little hollow, at least for one local blogger.

According to Lee Zukor, founder of the local foodie blog Simple, Good and Tasty, “People have been writing — even people who know much better — have been writing about all the great local foods. What bugs me is all of the conversation around it being so local. It’s become really fuzzy around what that means.”

In a July 13 post, Zukor wrote about his love for the stadium and its delicious, expansive offerings, but voiced frustration over the slightly misleading “local” descriptor. He notes that neither the stadium’s Kramarczuk sausages nor the Vincent burger are sourced from local animals.

“Local food is food that you know where it comes from, and that’s just not the case at Target Field,” he said. “I try to avoid meat where I don’t know where it comes from, and there’s one choice, Wild Acre turkey legs. So it’s nice to have a choice.”

Still, Zukor isn’t expecting a locavore experience when he goes to a baseball game. And he does note that local organic apples will make an appearance at Target Field this fall.

“Like if someone came from out of town and got dumped in Target Field, I think they’d get a reasonable sampling, they’d feel like they’re in Minnesota. And I like that.”

So if there are any bones to pick with the new stadium, they are small ones. And probably not from any local animals.