One of the most talked about sports stories of the recent holiday season was the NHL?s outdoor game played between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo?s Ralph Wilson Stadium. More than 70,000 people braved frigid temps and snow to watch outdoor hockey and the game posted better-than-normal television ratings across the country. A successful event on all fronts. Successful enough to ignite discussions across the country about which northern climate facility should host the next outdoor hockey spectacle. Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, all have been mentioned.
The event?s success and accompanying buzz has led people throughout the State of Hockey to suggest it will soon be time for Minnesota to host an outdoor hockey extravaganza. Yes, we currently lack an adequate outdoor facility. However, the construction of TCF Bank Stadium and the new Twins Ballpark will change the dynamic in the near future.
There is no question that TCF Bank Stadium — complete with its horseshoe design, 50,000 seats and artificial playing surface ? is a likely venue for such an event. Moreover, the U of M?s vision for a tripleheader of sorts ? games involving the Gophers men, Gophers women and the Wild ? is quite solid.
At the same time, many have inquired whether or not the Twins would have interest in hosting such an event in the new downtown Minneapolis ballpark. The answer to the question is a definite YES.
Long before outdoor hockey was suggested, the Twins had considered constructing an ice skating rink in center field for the winter months. That rink could become a wintertime destination for thousands of Minnesotans, much like the rink which currently sits in downtown St. Paul adjacent the Landmark Center.
In regards to hockey, the new 40,000-seat Twins ballpark would offer more intimacy than a football facility. My sense is more fans would have optimal sightlines in the ballpark. Moreover, the thought of showcasing hockey in the region?s largest city has definite appeal.
The primary challenge to events of this nature in the Twins ballpark is the natural grass playing field. Like concerts, ice-related events can have quite a negative impact on a playing surface ? something that is quite concerning to the ballclub. It?s compounded by the calendar and the reality that Minnesota?s weather does not provide your playing field sufficient time to recover for Opening Day?
Needless to say, the playing field challenge will be studied with hopes of finding ways to mitigate the negative impact. Assuming we are successful, one never knows when we may see the likes of Mauer and Morneau on skates in downtown Minneapolis. Lets Play Hockey!!!!
TWINS BALLPARK NOTEBOOK: M.A. Mortenson remains on target to pour the first main concourse slab on or about January 23 ? As of today the Twins have confirmed commitments for 40 of the 55 private suites ? The team hopes to begin marketing club seat product (Champion?s Club and Legend?s Club) in early February ?
More than 70% of the ballpark project has been bid ? The 6 by 6 scale model of the ballpark ? along with the latest in 3-D computer animation ? will be on display at TwinsFest January 25-27. Don?t miss this opportunity to see first-hand the vision for Minnesota?s new ballpark.
Dave St. Peter
President, Minnesota Twins Baseball Club