The last thing Target Field, the Minnesota Twins new ballpark in Minneapolis, needs is a convertible roof. Adding a roof to the park would have been a terrible idea and Twins fans should be thankful they’ll have a park that belongs to Minnesota and not just a nice place to watch baseball.
The only complaint I’ve heard about the yet-to-open Target Field is its lack of a convertible roof to shelter Twins fans from the unpredictable weather Minnesota provides in the spring and fall. They say it will be too cold in April and October. There’s the worry there will not only be too many rainouts, but snowouts as well.
I can’t believe I’m hearing this complaint from Minnesotans. I’m a Minnesotan and I thought the mentality was that we embraced the cold. We’re strong enough to bear sub-zero temperatures all winter, so what’s a 45-degree day in April? Do you think Target Field vendors won’t be smart enough to sell coffee and hot chocolate? We’re from Minnesota and we know how to dress for cold weather.
The toughness of the natives is only a minor reason why the Twins are better off without a roof. I’ve been to a number of ballparks around the country and the best ones never have a roof. Take Miller Park in Milwaukee for example. It’s a great stadium and a great place to watch baseball. However, there’s no sense of Milwaukee in the park. Even when the roof is open, the field and stands are still enclosed within the walls giving the park no sense of location, much like the cookie cutter parks of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Philadelphia built in the seventies. Of course, Miller Park goes above and beyond those stadiums, but there’s little sense of community with the rest of the city.
The best ballparks aren’t just ballparks in the city, they are part of the city: Camden Yards in Baltimore, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, AT&T Park in San Francisco and Comerica Park in Detroit. When you’re in Camden Yards you can tell you’re in Baltimore. When you’re in Chase Field in Phoenix, you might as well be in Flagstaff. With the Roberto Clemente Bridge and Allegheny River within site, PNC Park feels like a part of Pittsburgh. The best place to watch a baseball game is at a park, not a stadium.
In a recent article on mlb.com, Twins president Dave St. Peter had similar thoughts on the lack of roof. “I think we all believe that we ended up with a much more character-filled ballpark, perhaps a ballpark with better sight lines. And it certainly has much more charm than some of the retractable-roof facilities you find in baseball.”
There’s also the question of when to close the roof. Rarely has the closing of the roof been warranted in games I’ve attended in Milwaukee and Seattle. The Mariners closed the roof of Safeco Field in a game I attended last summer. The day was overcast and I figured a shower or storm was nearing. When my friend and I took a walk around the park later we couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the weather was. The clouds had parted and the sun was shining. So why did they close the roof? I’ve been in Milwaukee when the weather is a bit cool, in the low 60s, and they will close the roof. Why? This isn’t a space shuttle launch. Everything shouldn’t have to be perfect for a baseball game to be played outside. When teams have convertible roofs, it’s as if it becomes an excuse to play in perfect conditions as often as possible, cutting off the fans from the outside world.
Rain outs? One thing the Minnesota Twins have lacked in the last 28 years is a good doubleheader. Twins fans may complain about getting wet, but they won’t complain when Ozzie Guillen is thrown out of the end of a doubleheader as his team is about to lose its second game of the day.
With the Twins downtown ballpark, fans will know they’re in Minneapolis as they look at the IDS Tower in the skyline and the light rail passing by just as Cardinals fans know they’re in St. Louis when they see the arch beyond the outfield wall. Yes, we’ll be cold from time to time and we’ll get wet now and then, but when it’s pushing 90 degrees in July and the openness of Target Field allows a cool breeze to run from center field to home plate, Target Field won’t look or feel any better.