February 24, 2008
Most sports fans in Minnesota (and taxpayers!) would agree that the 1965 expansion of Metropolitan Stadium, with a big double-deck grandstand beyond the left field fence, was a big waste of money. It satisfied neither the Vikings, since their closest front-row fans still had to sit well over 100 feet away from the sidelines, nor the Twins, who had little use for those additional seats. As a result, it was replaced by the Metrodome a mere 17 years later. What if they had done it differently? I thought it would be interesting to imagine an alternative configuration that would have been better suited to both sports. So, while I was making corrections and enhancements to the existing diagrams (including the light towers, etc.), I came up with a design of my own. The major change is that a double-decked grandstand along the third base side would pivot and swivel into position for football games:
Comparing the real version to the imaginary version, you can see that the grandstand would be extended around the right field corner, and further along the third base side. That hideous high school temporary bleacher section along the third base line would have been junked and sold for scrap! The outfield layout is mostly symmetrical, but with a quirky deep angle down the left field corner, much like the right field corner in Fenway Park. With a movable grandstand, the cost of construction would have risen significantly, requiring some hard bargaining with government officials, and the groundskeepers would have been hard-pressed to keep the grass in left field in good condition. I estimate the capacity would have been 45,000, about a thousand less than the baseball capacity and 3,000 less than the football capacity. Offsetting the slightly reduced quantity, however, would be the vastly improved quality of seating: Almost all the football fans would have had great sight lines, close to the action. True, the seats at the far end of the movable grandstand would have been awful for baseball fans, pointed toward center field rather than the diamond, but the Twins rarely would have filled those seats in any case. (Not much different than the far-away seats in the real-life left field grandstand, actually.)
Nevertheless, even such an improved design would have had a limited useful lifespan for the Vikings, given the limited capacity, and they would have been clamoring for a domed stadium by the mid-1980s if not earlier. Perhaps they could have appeased the Vikings for another decade or so by expanding the capacity by 8,000 or so seats by extending the third deck all the way to the end in right field, and maybe even adding a roof, as some had suggested. Possible, but unlikely. Even if the Vikings had moved out around the mid-1980s, the Twins would have been under less pressure to go along with the (by then) passing fad of artificial turf domed stadiums, and they could have continued to play at the ballpark in Bloomington well into the 1990s, or into the next century!
I'm working on something similar for Candlestick Park, which underwent a similar unsatisfactory conversion into a dual-use (baseball and football) facility in 1972, and for Anaheim Stadium, which did so in 1980.