Minnesota's sports venues will be tough to beat

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was another beautiful day at Target Field. Brilliant blue skies faded to black as the ambient light of downtown Minneapolis blended with the glow from one of the country's best ballparks.

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was another beautiful day at Target Field. Brilliant blue skies faded to black as the ambient light of downtown Minneapolis blended with the glow from one of the country's best ballparks.

By the time the Twins' pitchers took batting practice Thursday afternoon, the Legislature had passed the Vikings' stadium bill, meaning downtown Minneapolis will soon be bracketed, or ear-muffed, by state-of-the-art stadiums.

By 2015, Minnesotans will be able to visit Target Field and Target Center downtown, ZygiWorld by the original Hubert's, beautiful TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, Xcel Energy Center in a reinvigorated portion of downtown St. Paul, and even a new ballpark for the Gophers baseball team.

By then, the Vikings' stadium deal will even have contributed funds toward the renovation of Target Center. And by then, Minnesotans might be able to argue that no other metro area in the country features better sports venues than our Twin Cities.

Passage of the Vikings' stadium bill ends an era of stadium debates and threats, spoken and implied, to move Minnesota sports franchises to North Carolina or Los Angeles.


For all of the logical arguments that can be made against publicly funding stadiums, cities are collections of buildings. Minnesota's politicians have ensured that our cities for decades to come will be guaranteed the presence of major sports teams housed in gorgeous buildings.

The X remains pristine. Impressive yet quaint, it stands as an homage to Minnesota's hockey tradition and a draw even for people bored by the Wild's mediocrity.

Target Field, in Year 3, remains a testament to creative engineering and architectural beauty. If the team would restore the majestic pines to their rightful home in center field, the park would be as close to perfect as could have been imagined when it started construction on the dumpy parking lot by Ramp A.

TCF is just right for the Gophers football team: picturesque and small. And Target Center, while outdated, came alive last winter with just a hint of promise from the Wolves.

As recently as 2008, you could find Twin Cities sports fans who believed that Williams Arena was our best venue. Soon, it might rank as our worst.

New Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague figures to raise enough money to construct a practice facility for Tubby Smith, and perhaps even eventually replace or renovate Williams. It's time. The Barn once was a fond nickname; now it's an apt description.

Once ZygiWorld is finished, what city will feature a better set of sports venues?

New York offers the grandeur of new Yankee Stadium and the entertainment history of Madison Square Garden, but the current buildings haven't seen many championship celebrations. Chicago brags about Wrigley Field, but U.S. Cellular Field was the last mediocre big-league ballpark built in America, Soldier Field looks like a spaceship smushed a Greek coliseum, and the United Center is sterile.


Dallas, Philadelphia and Denver are contenders. Baltimore and Seattle feature gorgeous football and baseball stadiums but lack hockey and the NBA. Arizona's stadiums are big and new but lack character.

Our skyline and sporting identity were once defined by the Metrodome. In a few years, the HumptyDome will be gone, replaced by buildings that better define and complement the Twin Cities.

"I've seen games in Target Center, and I've gone to Wild games, and I've been to TCF Bank," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said Thursday while watching batting practice at Target Field. "I think when the Vikings get their place finalized, we'll have some of the better facilities in the country.

"I'm not sure back in the mid-'90s, when our people were heading to the Capitol on a consistent basis, that we'd have four of these places. But I remember going into Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and they were getting two and three new stadiums at a crack. I always wondered how they did it.

"Now here we are, and I'm sure people around the country are asking how we did it. I'm hoping all four franchises measure up to their facilities."

Jim Souhan is a sports columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune

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