(Image: OK, well since it's the Cardinals, we'll let this slide....)
Over at Brew Crew Ball, Kyle Lobner wrote a nice piece on the closing of the Metrodome, which saw its 32-year run end after the Minnesota Vikings’ last game there Sunday. That got me thinking about back when I moved to Minneapolis to go to university, and the shock and dismay I felt when I realized just what the state of baseball was in Minneapolis. I remember seeing pictures of all MLB stadiums growing up and knowing that Milwaukee County Stadium was not one of the ‘jewels’ of the sport. On exploratory missions to Minneapolis before moving here, I had thought about the Metrodome as where the Vikings played, never really thinking about it as the Twins’ (and football Gophers’) home simultaneously. Well, wow….it turns out the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which opened in 1982, made County Stadium look like Ebbets Field.
Unlike Candlestick Park in San Francisco, which despite its tales of wind and cold during baseball games was a reasonably aesthetic old outdoor stadium, the Dome reeked of utility and lack of character. The temperature-controlled Dome had none of the day-to-day or seasonal changes that one should see with a baseball season. It was always the same temperature under the air-supported Teflon roof. When one was at a game, it didn’t matter if it were a day game or a night game: the ‘atmosphere’ inside the Dome was the same and there was no indication of what it might be like outside. That ‘atmosphere’ was one of sterile blandness. Football seats were rolled up to create the façade of an outfield wall, and the pathetic ‘baggie’ served as an obstacle to left-handed hitters. It was called the ‘baggie’ because it literally was a giant piece of plastic that rippled like so much cheapness when it was struck by a fly ball. Then there were the low-hanging ugly gray speakers with a tinny quality and wires galore, which remained long after the Twins left the Dome and in fact are hanging there right now.
I remember growing up and going to Brewers games and yes, the weather was sometimes awful and sometimes it rained and folks got wet. Well, that was part of the fun, and made for some great times down there, regardless of whether you stayed dry or the Brewers managed to win. If people bailed on their seats or the game wasn’t well attended due to weather, well, your seats just got upgraded! I totally understand the why Miller Park was built the way it was, because the Brewers rely on all of Wisconsin to support them in a market enclosed on all sides. But if it had been up to me, the current ballpark in Milwaukee would have featured a sliding roof like Safeco or Minute Maid Park. Who boasts about Miller Park having the only fan-shaped roof in North America (besides the Brewers themselves)? From the outside, Miller Park probably looks better than Minute Maid when the roof is closed. But to employ a fan-shaped roof, Miller Park requires that mile-high wall that encircles the concourse beyond the bleachers, which makes the park feel a little more enclosed than a ballpark with a retractable roof should.
Tangents aside, when I first went to Miller Park I was amazed at how great it was, and I still love the atmosphere, feel and sight lines at Miller better than a lot of MLB parks, and I’ve been to over half of them. The Metrodome, on the other hand, was brutal. For folks who grew up Twins fans or in the Twin Cities, it’s understandable that they would not possess the hatred and loathing of the Metrodome in quite the same degree as outsiders do. Their teams occupied the place, benefitted from its idiosyncrasies, and the sentiment was encapsulated well by fan Joe Lonke’s quote in a Minneapolis Star Tribune article today: “People called it a dump. But it was our dump, and we loved it”. In the ensuing years, fans in Minnesota (at least many of them) had nothing to compare the Dome to, so it wasn’t all that bad to them. Metropolitan Stadium, which had housed the Twins and Vikings, was torn down after the teams exited. The football stadium at the University of Minnesota, Memorial Stadium, which had opened in 1924, was abandoned in favor of the Metrodome and demolished a decade later in 1992. So for more than three decades, all Minnesota fans knew, other than the Target Center and Xcel Energy Center arenas (Timberwolves, Wild, respectively) was the Metrodome. Even the Timberwolves spent their first year playing in the Metrodome, which also hosted NCAA Final Fours, big-time concerts and a Superbowl.
(The metrodome's scoreboard resembles your grandpa's TV set.)
The Metrodome was built the way it was because it was cheap. The construction was only $55MM, which translates to $156MM in 2013 dollars according to Wikipedia, and even that is still dirt cheap. Since it hosted so many different teams, there was little in terms of permanent structures or paraphernalia regarding specific teams. It was all to get ‘em in, see the game, get ‘em out. You could buy really cheap tickets and see the Twins, but you were paying for horrific nose-bleeds up in the heavens in a ‘ballpark’ that seated over 50,000 for baseball. The problem was that it was hardly worth it to spend some hard-earned scratch on better tickets because the whole affair of watching baseball there was so putrid, that the benefits were largely cancelled out. The closest seats around the infield didn’t even feel that close because they were well away, above the field. Walking around the stadium? Good luck. To get to the concourse, which affords absolutely no field views, one had to climb steep concrete stairs and then get swallowed up by a bottleneck in a tight corridor filled with the stank of second-rate concessions and watery beer. The concourse routinely becomes so crowded that you are stopped in your tracks and have to wait until it untangles itself. Are you a Brewers fan who hates the decrepit nature of Wrigley Field and the sorry state of its bathroom facilities? The Metrodome’s trough wasn’t much better. I was at the Dome for one final event recently, a Monster Jam monster truck extravaganza. The same nonsense was on display all over again, and after the event we all had to wait excruciatingly long in one big mass for our chance to be blown out of the air-lock door once again because if they opened all the doors to let everyone out like at a normal stadium, the roof would deflate and fall down. Genius.
Ah, but I could go on for days about the Metrodome. I really could. My vitriol toward the place really knows no bounds. I had some good times there. But it was despite the stadium, not in any way the result of the stadium. I don’t discount Minnesota fans and the nostalgia they feel for the Humpty Dump. After all, the Twins won two World Series titles there, and were aided countless times by the goofy hops, balls lost in the roof and other oddities that made Dome Ball unique. But for outsiders, especially those who came into it knowing that ballparks could be soooo much better, the Dome was like a punch in the face. I guess I’m just mad that Target Field wasn't built sooner, because I suffered with Dome Ball for too long. But enough of my whining. The Dome is off to the Teflon graveyard in the sky. The Dome will be blissfully demolished soon and the Vikings will actually play outdoors for a couple years. Then Zygi-World will be built and replace one monstrosity on the east end of downtown with another. I leave with these hilarious quotes compiled by the Star Tribune:
“This park should be barred from baseball. … You win on fly balls or lose on fly balls. That’s not major league baseball, that’s amateur Little League. ... Why doesn’t [Twins owner Carl Pohlad] spend $100,000 and paint the ceiling so you can see the ball. What is he, a billionaire? Tell him they don’t put pockets in coffins. ... What a joke. ”— Yankees manager Billy Martin after his team lost to the Twins 8-6, with four of the Minnesota runs coming from fly balls being lost in the lights and roof.
“Indoor domes should be used for roller rinks.” — Bears coach Mike Ditka, who went on to rename the Dome “Rollerdome.” When the Bears next visited the Dome, fans were given towels reading “Rollerdome” and Vikings cheerleaders wore skates.
“They ought to nuke the place.” — St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog of his team’s seven-game World Series loss to the Twins in which all of Minnesota’s victories came in the Dome.