The following is a critique piece I wrote back in high school about the Minnesota Twins’ old ‘ballpark’, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Happy 2017 season! Go watch a game outside.
Dome of Doom
One of Minnesota’s most peculiar couples is on the brink of a break up that will give us all a breath of fresh air. Starting next season in 2010, there will be major league outdoor baseball in Minnesota. For 27 grueling years, marked by a love-hate relationship, our hometown Twins and the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome have provided the great state of Minnesota with entertainment not unlike that of a game of pinball; a ball is hit, and it then proceeds to smash into awkwardly shaped and placed structures unfit for a baseball park. The ball takes weird hops, speeds up after making contact with the ground, and sometimes pop flies don’t drop back down into play (see Dave Kingman). Opinions about the playing field vary. Some take kindly to the “uniqueness” and history. I scoff at such judgment. America’s pastime should not be played indoors.
Getting to the Metrodome, located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, is simple enough. Finding an affordable parking spot within decent walking distance, however, is another critique on its own. About one block away from the Dome, one is reminded of a more convenient, alternative form of transportation, the light rail. It cost a mere $5 and essentially drops you off right in front of the so-called “ballpark.”
Although improved from past years, the Dome’s exterior surroundings remain ordinary compared to the other stadiums around baseball. It is surrounded by numerous food shops, local musician players, and activities for kids. As I looked around at the joyous faces of fans eating, people dancing, and kids running around, I couldn’t help but think that this is what baseball is all about; having a great time with family and friends, outside. But with the Dome, it felt as though the barbecue, African drums and moonwalks were making one last futile attempt to brighten my spirits before I walked into the depressing marshmallow of a baseball stadium.
Immediately after walking through the ear-cracking revolving doors, 70 degrees of carefully monitored air conditioning blows away my memory of the delightful (and natural) sunny weather outside. And while easy enough to dress for, this large aspect of the Dome serves as a reminder that baseball should be played under blue skies, not 800,00 square feet of Teflon-coated fiberglass. Baseball players already have multimillion-dollar contracts, lavish houses, and beautiful wives. Now they get to perform their “job” under “ideal” conditions while I’m stuck in rush hour! Real ball players adjust their play to the weather, not have the weather adjusted for them like plants in a greenhouse. Then again, greenhouses actually grow real grass, and not artificial turf.
Don’t get me wrong; the Dome has made improvements on its turf-like carpeting. It no longer tears multiple layers of skin off diving player’s bodies. And it certainly has a more “genuine” velvet look to it. One of the most noticeable features of the field is the 17-foot high baggie in right field. It is a very unique obstacle, giving outfielders a different look from traditional 7-foot high walls. Still, it takes second fiddle to the Green Monster in Boston’s 97-year-old (outdoor) Fenway Park, whenever oversized outfield walls are discussed.
Some of the smaller assets of the Dome make the trip to a game a little easier to bear. There are two pitch speed displays, which may or may not read accurately, depending on what team is up to bat. In addition to the Twins’ score, scores of every other Major League game are shown and updated throughout the game. To keep unimpressed fans like me engaged, the Twins supply “Twingo” cards, with which one can (learn how to) keep score and possibly (meaning rarely) win prizes. While all of these features are helpful and interesting, they simply remain the lowest standards to which every Major League ballpark must conform.
Another standard in all stadiums are restrooms. And while the Dome does facilitate one’s natural “needs” in this department, it is by the slimmest of margins. At this particular game (against the Boston red Sox) there were over 40,000 fans in attendance, seemingly most of whom had “nature” give them a call during the game. The wait was at least 25 minutes. And what do I find myself aiming into once I finally got into the bathroom? A trough! To make matters worse, there were 20 other men, teenagers and children peeing into the 30-foot embarrassment of a urinal. I would have had trouble going had my bladder not been held profusely for half an hour in line. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s what the Dome’s designers had in mind when they put barnyard equipment in the bathroom, “If you have to wait X amount of minutes to use the “restroom,” people won’t care what they’re peeing into, as long as they’re peeing into something.”
Probably the only positive aspect of the Dome is the atmosphere created by the fans during the games. Because of its confinements (being indoors), it can get incredibly loud during games. During the playoffs, the Metrodome has set numerous decibel sound records to the point where fans and players alike are forced to wear earplugs. The wave is another common occurrence for Twins fans to engage in during late innings. Even the PA announcers get in on the fun, playing The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” after wild pitches or hit batsmen.
Unless you consider a hot dog named after the stadium (the Dome Dog) fine Minnesotan cuisine, the Metrodome offers nothing spectacular (or original) on its menu. It provides all the typical items: soda, candy, pizza, potato chips, and of course the Dome Dog. When it comes to beverages, the Dome comes through (supporting my theory on why they built troughs). The North Shore Freeze, Brew and Brats, and the Twin Cities Grill all provide a variety of drinks to quench your thirst. These include: ice cream, malts, shakes, root beer floats, beer with brats, and delicious fruit smoothies. Amazingly, none of these concoctions will put a serious dent in your wallet.
By and large, the Metrodome is not a baseball park where the park itself is the experience. If anything, the Dome ruins the fan experience, especially if the Twins are struggling. Luckily, our Twins have fielded a solid squad the past two decades, saving us Minnesotans even more embarrassment. The things to remember about the Dome are the memorable teams and players that played there, and just how bad it really was. That way, the new Target Field will always be held with as high esteem as the open sky it rests under.