It?s been quite a month for the Minnesota Twins organization and baseball fans across the Upper Midwest. Throughout January the Twins and their fans have bonded ? perhaps like no other time in the history of the franchise. You see, this region has fallen in love with Twins baseball. Consider the following:
Capacity crowds greet the Twins players and staff everywhere as the team?s 47th annual Winter Caravan travels 4,500-plus miles across five states. Highlights of this year?s Caravan include special visits to the Minnesota Academy for the Deaf, a visit to Camp Ripley, a stop at Whitewater State Park as well as the Steger Mukluk Store in Ely, MN.
The Twins season ticket family is expanding. As of today, thanks to strong team interest and fan?s desire to secure new ballpark priority, the Twins have added 2,100-plus new full season tickets. Combined with an expected renewal rate of 90% or better on existing accounts, the team is on pace to surpass the 10,000 mark in total season tickets for the 2007 season. Should the Twins secure 10,000-plus season tickets, it would represent the second time in franchise history (1993).
Meanwhile, Twins single game tickets went on sale last Friday in conjunction with TwinsFest, and fans stepped to the plate big time. Over a three-day period, Twins fans secured seats to a plethora of great matchups surpassing the 2006 single game ticket totals by a ******** 37%.
Speaking of TwinsFest, nearly 36,000 fans ? a new attendance record ? packed the Metrodome this weekend. There was a noticeable element of excitement in the Metrodome all weekend long as fans flocked to interact with 60 current, former and future Twins including reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, AL Batting Champion Joe Mauer, AL MVP Justin Morneau and perennial Gold Glove Award winner Torii Hunter. Most importantly, the players and fans came together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for youth baseball and softball programs supported by the Twins Community Fund.
Clearly one of this year?s most popular TwinsFest attractions was the Twins Outdoors booth highlighting the team?s new ballpark. The space provided fans a more detailed glimpse of the conceptual ballpark design as well as the facilities relationship to downtown Minneapolis as well as the North Loop neighborhood. Thousands of fans spent significant time reviewing the ballpark plans, providing valuable feedback by filling out comment cards and speaking to representatives of the Twins and project architects HOK Sport and HGA. In case you are wondering, the most frequently asked questions surrounded the following topics:
What is the status of the land deal? ? As part of the Twins-Hennepin County agreement, the County is responsible for securing the appropriate land for construction of the ballpark. As reported by the local media, the County and private landowners have been unable to come to terms on price. As outlined in the ballpark legislation, the County is exercising its eminent domain rights which should allow the project to remain on schedule while the judicial process determines the actual sale price. While the price uncertainty presents a real concern, we continue to be hopeful that realism will set in for the landowners thus allowing the project to move forward as planned.
Are you really building an open air ballpark? ? After this weekend, I?m convinced that a number of fans continue to believe there is a ?secret? plan to add a retractable roof to the ballpark. While this issue has been repeatedly addressed, some fans want to believe a magic funding source will emerge to pay for a roof. The reality is the Twins and Hennepin County are 100% committed to building a great OPEN-AIR park.
When will we see what the ballpark will actually look like? ? Very soon. The team, County and Minnesota Ballpark Authority are working to finalize the schematic design (which includes a look at the building?s exterior) of the ballpark. It remains our collective hope to unveil this design during a series of events ? including a public open house ? on Thursday, February 15 at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis. The Hennepin County Board is slated to vote on final approval of the schematic design on February 27th.
When will we be able to pick out our seats in the new park? ? Current Twins season ticket holders have already secured new ballpark priority. That priority will come into play later in 2007 when the team announces the complete new ballpark ticket transition plan. While the Twins will launch premium seat (suites and club seats) sales in the spring of this year, the current plan calls for the team to actually begin assigning specific seats in the new ballpark in early 2008.
Where will TwinsFest be held once the Twins are in the new park? ? As long as the Metrodome remains standing, the team would hope to continue holding the Twins Community Fund?s largest fundraising event in the facility. Should the Metrodome not be an option, the Twins would seek a new home ? possibly the Minneapolis Convention Center ? as the future TwinsFest venue. One thing is for certain. TwinsFest will continue to be one of the largest fan festivals in all of professional sports.
Dave St. Peter
President, Minnesota Twins