For the first time since 1991, the Minnesota Twins will be in the playoffs. For the first time ever, the 2002 Central Division champs will be in a so-called "divisional series" -- an extra round of playoffs added in the mid-'90s.
The playoffs promise to bring lots of fun and a few hassles to Downtown -- for example, the Twins' first playoff game, on Friday, Oct. 4, will collide with the evening rush hour.
To help you figure out how to celebrate and what to avoid, here are answers to 20 questions about how the playoffs will affect Downtown.
So when exactly are these playoff games? Because the Twins had the worst record among the three American League division winners, they'll open the best-three-of-five playoff series at Oakland. That means they'll have at most two games at the Metrodome - the third game of the series on Friday, Oct. 4 at 3:05 p.m. and the fourth on Saturday, Oct. 5 at a time that won't be determined until Friday. Saturday's game won't be necessary if one team wins the series' first three games.
2. Can I still get tickets? Almost certainly. The games are officially sellouts, but because most fans had to buy ticket "strips" for all three playoff rounds, scalpers say first-round tickets should be plentiful and reasonable. Upper deck tickets (face value, $10-$20) will be easy to get, and lower deck ($25-$40) could be cheaper than face if the Twins are down two games to none, or triple face value if they're up two games to none.
3. How pricey are tickets? Less than the Springsteen show. The cheapest upper seat is $10; lower deck outfield is $20. Lower-deck seats inside the foul poles are $25, and lower-deck infield box seats are $40.
4. How bad will parking be? Bad but not awful. Friday evening rush hour could be rough if the 3:05 p.m. game is brisk, but American League playoff games usually go longer than 3 hours.
The good news is that Downtown's high office vacancy rates mean more spaces are open in parking lots and ramps. Still, the Twins and Metro Transit are aggressively encouraging fans to take the bus.
5. How will transit work? Metro Transit will run shuttle buses on Friday and Saturday from four locations to and from the Metrodome: the Mall of America in Bloomington; Ridgedale Shopping Center in Minnetonka; Northtown Mall in Blaine; and across from the State Fair Grounds in St. Paul. A roundtrip costs $5. The buses will start three-plus hours before the game because of the parties.
Metro Transit will also have extra buses on routes 16 and 7 that already travel near the Metrodome.
6. Are any streets closed? Yes, the same streets that are closed for Vikings games. These intersections include: 5th Street at 11th Avenue, Chicago Avenue at 6th Street, Chicago Avenue at 4th Street, McGrew Avenue at 4th Street, 5th Street at Park Avenue and 4th Street at Park Avenue.
7. Any game-day parties? The Twins plan game-day parties on the plaza (Chicago Avenue between 4th and 6th streets) starting about three hours before game time, with headliners Mick Sterling (Friday) and Boogie Wonderland (Saturday).
Friday morning from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., the team also plans to serve a free breakfast on the plaza.
8. Any earlier parties? There's a big pep rally Downtown on Thursday (the series' off-day) featuring Twins players. The time and place will be determined, though organizers are leaning toward Block E, on the 1st Avenue North and 6th Street plaza.
9. How busy will restaurants be? Packed before and after games, according to Joanne Kaufman, executive director of the Warehouse District Business Association. That means lunch might be hard to find for Downtown workers on Friday.
Nearer the Metrodome, the Old Spaghetti Factory, 233 Park Ave., expects to increase business 30-40 percent during playoff game(s). "We'll be doubling our normal staff levels," general manager Robbe Nelson said.
10. Are there restaurant deals? Few. Warehouse District restaurants and bars will not be running specials during the Twins playoff game(s), but Pizza Luc, 400 1st Ave. N., will offer a 12-inch pizza (up to three toppings) and two soft drinks for $12.99 plus tax for as long as the Twins are in the playoffs. You don't need a ticket to get the deal. Hell's Kitchen, 89 S. 10th St., will offer a quarter-pound kosher frank and a beer for $7.95 to honor the Twins.
11. Can I get a Downtown hotel room? Better find a tent. According to the Greater Minneapolis Conventions and Visitors Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police Convention has booked just about every available room Downtown. "They're using 6,000 hotel rooms. There are only 3,000 rooms in Downtown," said Peter Hedlund, vice president of sales for the GMCVA.
12. Will there be extra police out? Beefing up police presence for the Twins playoff game(s) is practically a moot point, according to 1st Precinct officer Lt. Kevin Stoll, thanks to all the chiefs of police in town.
"You're actually going to have about 16,000 police officers in town about the same time as the Twins are playing in the playoffs," Stoll said. "We've beefed up foot patrols in the Warehouse District and on Nicollet Mall and around the Dome, not only for the convention, but for the Twins game."
13. How tight will security be? Tight. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Department and State Highway Patrol will augment Metrodome security. As of press time, no decisions had been made as to how many security personnel would be present or what measures they would take.
14. What's the city taxpayers' cost? Party first and figure out the cost later. City officials had no estimate as of press time.
15. Will the skyways be open later? Nope. Skyway hours will not be extended, as the Friday game will likely begin mid-afternoon.
16. Will the IDS Center have some cool exterior design? No. Patrick Klinger, the Twins' marketing vice president, said the cost (tens of thousands of dollars) was too steep for the team. Tenants also objected, Klinger said; designs are formed by lights hung on IDS windows, and tenants didn't want their views blocked for what could be a three-week playoff run.
17. Any other decorations Downtown? Lots. The Twins and Minneapolis Downtown Council plan to have banners along Hennepin Avenue, with appliqus plastered to the skyways and possibly "Safe at Home" logos -- the slogan of the new-ballpark-in-the-Warehouse-District promoters -- in the middle of strategic intersections. The Twins are paying for this, according to club officials.
18. Will this be an excuse to hype a new ballpark? Unquestionably. But hey, if you fought for a new stadium all those years that the Twins stank, wouldn't you milk this opportunity?
19. Can I get a homer hankie? They'll be unavoidable. The Twins have already sold more than 100,000 of the Star Tribune-created rags; they cost $1 each and you can get them on the Metrodome's plaza, at the Twins Pro Shop in City Center, 615 Hennepin Ave., or at startribune.com.
20. Can the Twins win? Yes! ...but baseball insiders say no. The Twins have an excellent home record, but play three of the possible five games at Oakland. Also, they have fared poorly against lefthanded pitchers, and Oakland has two of the best, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.
But Minnesota's plucky band of overachievers have exceeded expectations all year, and post-contraction karma is on their side.
Pessimism is no fun; it's only for the emotionally fragile who need to protect themselves from a little disappointment. The moral of this story: you gotta believe.