MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been encouraging fans to get involved in the design of the new ballpark since it was approved this summer. And on Monday night, fans finally had their first chance to verbally voice their opinions. The first public meeting to discuss the design of the ballpark and the surrounding area was held at that time in the Minneapolis Public Library Board Room. The room was packed with Minneapolis residents and Twins fans who voiced their opinions and initiated questions about the plans for the 42,000-seat park that will be built in the Warehouse District.
The 10 members of the Hennepin County Design Advisory Committee (DAG 360) were on hand for the meeting. The group is set up to be the voice of the public in the design process as the committee members will receive public input and then give their recommendations to the Hennepin County Board, the Minnesota Ballpark Authority and the Twins organization. "We're trying to set some guidelines that hopefully will help decision makers when they have to deliberate and make the tough decisions as to just what the priorities are," said Chuck Leer, chair of DAG 360. "We want them to know what's important to the people of this community because there are going to be tradeoffs -- we know that. There is not going to be enough money to do everything that everybody wants to do. And when that happens, we want to try and help determine what is most important and how do you sort that out." The committee has been meeting since the start of October, but Monday marked the first community forum to really discuss the issues. A brief presentation was made at the start of the forum to better explain some of the plans that have already been laid out for the site. Many people involved in the project, such as Chuck Ballentine of the Hennepin County Ballpark Project Office and Kobi Bradley of HOK Sports architects, addressed some of the issues with the site. Those included transportation plans such as the extension of the Hiawatha light rail to the new park, as well as pedestrian bridges that could aide in walking from downtown. And while some of the people on hand were there to address concerns in regards to the plans for the site, such as the increased flow of traffic in the area, others, like Doug Hastings, wanted to find out more information about the specific design of the ballpark itself. He got his chance to voice what he'd like to see. "We wanted to find out what we could about what it's going to look like and what the plans are," said Hastings, 55, of Atwater, Minn. "This is really the first opportunity that there have been specific proposals available for us to see." As for what Hastings wants to see in this new park, it was quite simple. "I want to see something historical incorporated in the park," Hastings said, "not in a museum setting but something that people can just walk in and just relive the past. It doesn't matter what kind of form it takes but just to make it possible for people to see the trophies and achievements from the past everytime that they visit the ballpark." Before the forum began, the committee handed out a draft of items they feel should be addressed in the design process. Some of those guidelines included making the design of the park reflect the spirit of the city, connecting the site to the downtown area, making travel in and around the ballpark easy, in addition to making the new ballpark an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly public facility. The hope of DAG 360 is that the public will continue to voice their opinions and help to shape the guidelines that will be followed during the planning stages. "It is critically important for people to get involved now because this is how they can voice what is most important to them," Leer said. "This is their opportunity to do that before anything is cast in stone. This is where they can really feel that they are a part of the formative stage of the project." The committee has to deliver its recommendations by Nov. 9, so Leer stressed that the timeline for people to give their input is very short. Those people wishing to deliver their input to the committee can submit written comments at twinsbaseball.com under the new ballpark section or they can call (651) 220-0914.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.