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The A’s can learn a lot from Target Field

The Twins have a beautiful stadium in downtown Minneapolis, and the A’s should consider its beauties — and its flaws — when building their own new ballpark.

85th MLB All-Star Game Aerials
I didn’t take this picture, but I wish I did.
Photo by Steven Bergerson/MLB via Getty Images

As is the case for many fans, I have set a personal goal of visiting all 30 MLB stadiums at some point in my life. But in recent years, while attending games at Chase Field in Phoenix, Minute Maid Park in Houston and Safeco Field T-Mobile Park in Seattle, I’ve had something else in mind — Oakland’s new ballpark.

Team president Dave Kaval, who is leading the charge on the team’s new stadium, once traveled the country on a ballpark tour of his own. He even documented his trip in his book, “The Summer That Saved Baseball.” Lately, as I have slowly crossed stadiums off of my own list, I have kept my eyes open for features I would (and wouldn’t) like to see included at the A’s future home of Howard Terminal.

I spent the last weekend watching the A’s in Minnesota, where the weather ranged from beautiful and breezy to so humid and muggy that I questioned why anybody chose to live there in the first place. But beyond that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Target Field.

Target Field is located right on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. We drove to the stadium for each of the three games we attended and had no issues doing so. The stadium shares three parking garages with the neighboring Target Center, which are a necessity given its location, but make tailgating impossible.

Parking and transportation will be a significant issue at Howard Terminal, with Rachel Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that the park would open with just 3,500 spots in its main lot (compared to 9,000 at the Coliseum). However, the team would also utilize other nearby city lots on game days, and I personally think this would be a fair sacrifice in order to keep tailgating a possibility, as it has become a part of the fanbase’s culture at this point.

A ramp from the parking structure takes you directly into the stadium, entering the park on the third base side of the Club Level. To the left are the doors to the Legends Club (more on that later) and escalators down to the first deck, and to the right is a large, windowed area called the Bat and Barrel.

This area is very reminiscent of the Treehouse, but is much brighter and more spacious. It includes a bar, TV screens, team memorabilia (including their two World Series trophies), and seating both indoors and outdoors. Like the Treehouse, it is open to all. While it is tucked a bit too far down the right field line for my liking, it seemed like a nice place to catch a couple innings. As a fan of the Treehouse, I hope a similar area is implemented at Howard Terminal.

As I wandered around the stadium, I was struck by the views of the field from every section of every level. There truly isn’t a bad seat in the house. This is largely due to how the stadium was stacked vertically. It has a small footprint, but is stacked and angled well, with relatively small sections. This means that even in the highest seats of the third deck, you have a great view of the whole field.

At times, while walking the second deck of the outfield, I was reminded far too much of the thin concourses of the Coliseum. This was especially true near the restaurant area above the batters eye in center field (which, might I add, is an excellent idea). But I was pleased to learn that this issue was isolated to only the least populated areas of the park. When we headed down to the first level, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes:

First level concourse - so wide!
Joshua Iversen

Full disclaimer — this shot was taken about an hour before first pitch on a Thursday night that ended up seeing a crowd of roughly 28,000. But still, the space to walk through the concourse was a refreshing change from the 24/7 congestion on the first level of the Coliseum. Additionally, because of the way the ballpark is stacked, you have a great view of the field from the concourse; the bottom of the second deck is not obstructing your view.

On the other hand, this season, we’ve seen lines implemented at some of the Coliseum’s busier concession stands. These have done a great job of leaving at least half of the walkway open for those trying to walk through the stadium, and they would likely be a welcome addition at Target Field, as during the middle innings the concourse did get fairly crowded thanks to food lines stretching almost all the way across.

Now, for the seats themselves:

On Thursday night, we snagged some of the best seats in the house — second row behind the visitors’ dugout, almost even with home plate. The seats cost about $75 each from a ticket resale site. The view was great, the seats were cushioned, and the netting was borderline invisible.

Perhaps my favorite part about these seats was the small concession area accessible only by those seated in the Dugout Box sections. At the outfield end of the section, there was a tunnel that took you to a small indoor area that included a bar, restrooms, tables, TVs and a concession stand. This area was significantly less crowded than the main concourse and it was very nice having it nearby, especially since the air conditioning provided a much-needed escape from the heat and humidity.

My one complaint about the seats was the height of the dugout in front of us. This wasn’t too big of an issue in the second row, but if we were sitting in the first row, the top of the dugout would have partially obstructed our view of the field. This seems like it would have been pretty easy to avoid — just build the dugouts six inches lower — and hopefully the A’s won’t make the same mistake at Howard Terminal.

We skipped Friday’s game (and I’m very thankful we did; the weather was pretty awful that night) and sat a section back and further down the third base line on Saturday night. The seats were pretty standard, and at about $40 each were comparable to similar seats at the Coliseum. The glare coming off of the buildings downtown as the sun set was annoying, but that might not be avoidable.

On Sunday, we visited my favorite part of the stadium — the Legends Club (or, officially, the Delta SKY360° Club). Again, tickets were roughly $75 each. The section stretches from about halfway up the first base line to about halfway up the third base line and is only accessible by those sitting in the section, making it very easy to walk through.

In many ways, the Legends Club is comparable to Shibe Park Tavern in Oakland. It includes a few bars and many concession stands, including some specialty options. But is larger, newer, and much nicer. The section pays homage to many Twins greats (hence the name), including Kirby Puckett, Joe Mauer, and Glen Perkins (?). It also features much more memorabilia on display, including items from the 2014 All-Star Game, which was hosted in Minnesota.

Something similar would be at the top of my wish list for Howard Terminal. The Athletics franchise has been one of the most successful and storied in MLB history, and the organization needs to do a better job of acknowledging that in the new stadium. I’m talking statues of Jimmie Foxx and Rickey Henderson; canvas photos of Lefty Grove and Eddie Plank; a mural of the Bash Brothers, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. It doesn’t need to be an exclusive club requiring ticketed entry, but the A’s need to do something special to honor their all-time greats.

As for the seats themselves, they were again cushioned, a nice touch for those paying for premium seats. We had a great view of the field, and we could look into the press box up to our left and see the beat writers and broadcasters of both teams. Again, my only complaint is the obstructed view from the first row, this time by a ribbon board.

That leads nicely into my least favorite part of Target Field — the scoreboards. They have one giant scoreboard above the left-center field seats and a second, smaller board in right-center. They are visible from almost every seat, save for maybe the back rows of certain sections on the first level. But, in my opinion, they just aren’t aesthetically pleasing:

The (ugly) scoreboard up in left field.
Joshua Iversen

I’m no artist, but the color scheme isn’t attractive to me. There’s too much black and the shades of blue, red, and green are off-putting. The StatCast info is an extremely welcome addition, but the separation between each section of the scoreboard just isn’t very clear. I’m a fan of the simple design of the scoreboards at the Coliseum, and I hope something similar follows the team to Howard Terminal.

The food was nothing special, and came at usual ballpark prices. At this point I’m spoiled by the A’s Access 50% discount, and I really hope the organization continues to include the perk going forward.

We didn’t have much trouble leaving the stadium after each game, as there were plenty of exits spread throughout the stadium. Parking is charged on your way out, and at $15, it wasn’t too bad. But the system isn’t very efficient and means you can be stuck waiting 20-30 minutes just to pay and exit the garage.

So, the TL;DR — Target Field is a beautiful baseball stadium, and I definitely recommend checking it out if you have the chance. There isn’t a bad seat in the house — just watch out for the first row of certain sections. It might not have the same life that the tailgates, bleacher crew and drums bring to the Coliseum, but it does a great job of showcasing the club’s history. Its biggest flaws are the ugly scoreboards, congested second level concourse, and slightly obstructed views in certain areas. But otherwise, if the A’s were to build their own Target Field on the waterfront in downtown Oakland, I would be absolutely thrilled.