Book combines fan experience, urban planning

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August 2, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
// City mouse Steve Berg publishes a studious coffee table book on Target Field //

Though he is unabashedly enthusiastic about Target Field, writer Steve Berg is a little more erudite than the typical fanboy. Besides spending over three decades with the Star Tribune as a reporter and editorial writer, Berg is also a respected urban planning and architecture expert. He pens the Cityscape blog on Minnpost.com, and as a Downtown resident, he stays intimate and up-to-date with city development plans.

So when he publishes a book about the new Twins ballpark, you can expect it to have a little more heft than some of the souvenir reads that have come out in the last few months.

Berg’s new book examines Target Field from the technical issues it posed to construction teams to the thorny political history that lead to its approval. But he also slips in doses of fan experience, city excitement and page upon page of high-caliber, detailed photography. The 224-page coffee table book, “Target Field: The New Home of the Minnesota Twins,” has an official release date of November 2010. But a special edition is available now in Twins pro shops and on twinsbaseball.com.

“It’s a book certainly for people who love baseball. But it’s also a book for people who love architecture and who appreciate urban design, building and construction,” he says.

Citing the multi-destination-oriented urban stadium as the hallmark of modern baseball, Berg sees Target Field fulfilling a legacy that began in 1992, with the Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yard. The first of a new generation of ballparks, people didn’t flock there only for the game.

“It was to draw people to the National Aquarium, the market place near the harbor, boat rides. The point is most of the new ballparks have tried to do that.”

Target Field, surgically tucked into a North Loop neighborhood surging from an intermodal transportation hub and a rediscovery of the area’s attractive building stock, might be the most intimate and neighborly stadium in the nation, Berg says.

“It’s probably the most significant urban ballpark built after Camden Yard,” he argues.

“The pedestrian bridges reach out into the Downtown community and say, ‘Come on and take a look.’ It’s a ballpark that’s also a bridge.

“Ballparks like Fenway and Old Shibe Park in Philadelphia, they were just on a regular city block. They were just like any other building, except that something magic went on there. And that’s what Target Field is. You don’t really know it’s there until you turn the corner.”

Not that Target Field is just like any other building. A good deal of Berg’s book is lauding architecture firm Populous for creating a civic landmark on par with the Guthrie Theater, Walker Art Center and the Central Library.

Berg also cites Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat as one of the stadium’s most under-sung heroes. With the state unwilling and the city unable to commit to the two-thirds public funding model, Berg says, “the county stepped forward, and they were sort of the adults in the room. And Opat was the one who risked his political career. So did Peter McLaughlin, so did Randy Johnson, so did Mark Stenglein. Without those guys it never would have been done, because they needed that sales tax increase to do it.”

Steve Berg’s book is available now at twinsbaseball.com.