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Twins new ballpark progress unveiled

Latest progess unveiled

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MINNEAPOLIS -- On May 15, 2007, the Twins gathered a group of media members on the site of their future ballpark to mark the beginning of the construction process.

Standing on an asphalt parking lot with a baseball diamond spray painted on it, the group was asked to envision themselves, in three years time, standing on the actual playing surface.

One year later, that vision has become quite a bit clearer.

On Thursday, exactly one year after the site cleaning began, the Twins once again convened the media on the construction site of the new ballpark. Executives from the Twins, HOK Sport, Mortenson Construction and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority were on hand to give an update of the building process and what's in store for the site.

This time instead of standing on the future field, a collection of over 20 media members gathered on a section of the main concourse area that's already in place. The view looked out onto the future playing field and gave a sense of what it might feel like walking to get concessions on the concourse while being able to look out at the field the entire time.

"I think it's exceeded our expectations in terms of the feel," said HOK architect Bruce Miller of the concourse area. "We wanted to create a space that was very generous in width and height. And the open concourse idea is that you'll always have a complete view of the ballfield. You'll never leave that game experience. It's really an exciting time to see all of that coming together."

Despite a very cold and snowy Minnesota winter, the project has remained on schedule. Dan Mehls, the Mortenson Construction Executive, said that a lot of significant milestones have already been reached. All of the piles needed to be driven into the ground for the project are in place. And of the 51,000 cubic yards of concrete required for the project, 15,000 have already been poured.

Even more is expected to take place on the site over the summer, especially now that HOK Sport is wrapping up the final stage of the design process.

"We had a significant amount of process over the winter," Mehls said. "Now that we have the final design documents, we can put more of the details together."

In addition to explaining some of the events that have taken place, an updated timeline of the construction was also released. Among the big events scheduled to occur over the summer is the completion of the pedestrian walkway over the 394 highway connecting the ballpark to downtown Minneapolis. The concourse promenade is also scheduled to be completed. Steel installation for the ballpark structure and sunshade will begin as, will the stone installation for the outside walls of the park.

Mehls also said that the construction group has been accepting bids from specialty contractors who will help construct the actual playing field. The plan is to start planting the grass seed for the field off-site in the next couple of months. The grass will then grow off-site until the fall of 2009 when it will be cut into sod and transported to the ballpark.

The playing surface is about more than just the grass, though, as a heating system will be constructed underneath the field.

"The most complicated part of the ballpark really isn't the grass but the heating system underneath the grass and the contouring of the outfield, the infield and the pitcher's mound," Mehls said. "We're excited about the expertise we're bringing on to help us buy those products and install them properly."

It's still very early in the stages of construction with the ballpark not set to be completed until 2010, but already there is plenty of positive reaction from those involved with the building of the new stadium.

"It's an exciting project to be a part of," said Steve Cramer, Chairman of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority. "I think everybody is coming together to deliver what really will be seen as an outstanding facet of downtown Minneapolis, and without a doubt it's going to be seen as one of the best facilities of its kind in the country."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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