MINNEAPOLIS -- The plastic sheeting covering one-third of Target Field and the large heaters found throughout the work site are a clear sign that winter has arrived in Minnesota. Winter doesn't mean a halt to the construction work that's taking place on the site of the Twins' new ballpark, which is set to open in April 2010, but the changes taking place are less likely to be seen once the snow starts falling. So the Twins gathered the local media on Friday for one final tour of Target Field before the winter weather fully takes hold.
Dan Mehls, the construction manager for Mortenson Construction, conducted the tour and gave updates on what's taken place recently on the ballpark site. Among the project's latest developments: The concrete portion of construction is virtually complete. Mehls said that the company celebrated the final concrete pour on Thursday and there are only a few small areas left for concrete to be added. About one-third of the stone wall panels, which make up the outside of the stadium, have been installed. The project began near the right-field corner and has started to wrap around home plate. It's been an intricate process, Mehls said, considering that the cranes to install the panels are located inside the park and the work must be done without the crane operator seeing where he's setting the stone. Glass is now being installed in many areas of the ballpark, including two structures down the right-field line that will be encased in glass -- the Twins Pro Shop and the Metropolitan Club. Work is also being done on what Mehls called a unique feature of the ballpark's main concourse -- a ceiling. Rather than leaving the piping and the conduits exposed, the decision was made to have a finished stucco ceiling running the length of the concourse. The next big phase of the project involves the installation of steel, and it's started with the canopy steel and support for the upper-deck seats in right field. The canopy will top off the park and run all the way around to the left-field corner, creating the largest canopy in all of Major League Baseball. With so many projects in the early stages, there is still much to be done in the coming winter months. But Mehls said that so far he's very pleased with how the project is coming along. "Overall, we're right on schedule," Mehls said. "The concrete portion of the project is ahead of schedule by a couple months. The steel is just right on schedule. Steel is on the critical path. We're pushing to get steel on site as fast as we can. But we'll be fine and continue to be on schedule." Although most of the plans for the ballpark are already in place, some of the details for projects have not been finalized. One such example is the public art project that will be integrated into the northeast side of Target Field. Prior to Friday's tour, Minnesota Ballpark Authority Commissioner Michael Vekich provided information on two public art projects that his group is overseeing -- projects which they hope will add to the look of the new ballpark. The first endeavor is the Fifth Street panels, which will be three 8-foot-high-by-84-foot-long eye-level exterior panels that will run along the northeast side of the building. The Ballpark Authority is funding the $200,000 for this portion of the project. The other art project is for the interior of the two-story circulation building which will connect commuters to the two levels of trains in the ballpark's transit station on 5th Street. The Northstar Commuter Rail Line will fund the $150,000 for this project. An 11-member committee was created to help select the artists for these two projects. A pool of 83 applicants from across the nation has been narrowed down to six finalists, three for each project. The winning artists will then be selected on Dec. 15. "As you take a look at the iconic look of this stadium and how beautiful it is right now, we feel that tying in this public art will add a nice feature to what this ballpark will look like," Vekich said. "The fact that we have gotten some very excellent and talented artists to come to this and be a part of it is very exciting." Another area of the ballpark that has not been fully designed is the plaza connected to 6th Street, which will be known as Target Plaza. The Twins and Target have agreed to collaborate on the plans for the public gathering space and pedestrian bridge connecting Target Field to downtown Minneapolis. The expectation is that the plans for that area will be finalized by the end of this year. "It will be a great access way to the ballpark from downtown Minneapolis," said Kevin Smith, the Twins executive director of public affairs. "It will be an open space where people can gather. We're hoping that at lunch hour people will bring their lunch out here and sit." The public will also be able to use this area as an access to the transit station on 5th Street on non-game days. The gate on Target Plaza, with turnstiles built into it for entry into ballpark, will be movable. When the Twins aren't playing, the gate will swing around and the outfield concourse will become part of the city sidewalk system -- meaning that fans can walk right up to the ballpark and through the concourses in the outfield to reach the trains.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.