Target Field :: Assessing the inaugural season

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October 25, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
Assessing the inaugural season

// Big boosts in neighborhood business and public transportation ease the sting of playoff loss //

Oh, the promises that this new Twins stadium made to us.

Aside from rekindling a love of local baseball by simply returning the game to the outdoors, Target Field, we were told, was going to have a massive civic impact that had nothing to do with sports.  

It was going to reintroduce suburbanites to Downtown. And once they got reacquainted with the core of the city, they’d stay longer, enticed by the wealth of drinking and dining options. New bars would open. Old bars would profit, finally seeing the payoff to their commitment to stay Downtown.

The up-and-coming North Loop neighborhood, already surging from an influx of young residents and a reputation for trendiness, would get a further shot in the arm, becoming our city’s version of Chicago’s Wrigleyville.

Public transit would be greatly challenged, as thousands of fans would take commuter trains, light rail cars and buses to a stadium that doubled as a transportation hub. The city, taking heat for its decision to convert Hennepin and 1st avenues to two-way streets, would have to manage huge increases in traffic congestion on reconfigured thoroughfares that many considered confusing.

So one month after the Twins season officially ended, how did it turn it out for everyone?

For Tim Mahoney, owner of The Loon Café at 500 1st Ave. N., it was a homerun. Still is, actually.

“Tons of people are coming through the Warehouse District that had never been there before,” he said. “And they’re finding out what a great place it is to come to hang out.”

Mahoney said his increased business stayed steady the entire season, and that now, “We’re hoping this momentum carries over into the Timberwolves and the Vikings season.”

And the traffic?

“Early this year before the first pitch was thrown, I stayed up late at night worrying about this traffic. And you know what? It turned out pretty [darn] good.”

Though, speaking of the two-way conversion, he added, “They may need to tweak a few things, especially on 1st Avenue. But that’s a whole other subject.”

Metro Transit has been able to bask in victory, as traditionally public transit-shy Twins fans flocked to trains and buses in droves. Of the approximately 40,000 fans that attended each game, 20 percent — or 8,000 per game — arrived by train or bus. That number almost doubled from the Metrodome days, when only 11 percent of the average 15,000 fans per game chose public transit.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) estimated that between 300 to 500 fans per game arrived by bicycle.

AASHTO honored the “Destination Target Field” website, a clearinghouse for stadium-related transportation information, with an Innovative Management award.

Steve Berg, a columnist who writes about urban issues, called the stadium’s inaugural season “a coming-of-age for Minnesotans.” He has asserted that Target Field educated locals in urban practices that are common in other big cities: using public transportation, mingling in the surrounding neighborhood after a game and generally contributing to a street vibrancy that doesn’t end after everyone has taken their seats for the opening pitch.  

And, Mahoney added, the stadium is simply making his customers smile more.

“When you leave the ballpark, they have people saying, ‘Hey, did you have a good time? Thanks for coming.’ Those little things go a long way. And then that spins into our neighborhood, where these people are in a good mood,” he said. “It’s really created a buzz again.”