Gophers game raises curtain at Target Fieldby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — For Minnesota in March, Saturday's weather wasn't bad. It was in the 40s and overcast at game time.
Sitting in the very first row next to the Gophers' dugout, Andrew Maher and his friend had a perfect view of the field, just down the third base line from home plate.
Unlike in the Metrodome, there was a breeze blowing across the bright green field. They could just see the Minneapolis skyline.
"I was here at 5 a.m. to get in here," said Maher. "I think I was one of the first people to get through the gate, so I was excited."
Maher and his buddy Brian Anderson are both freshmen at the U of M, and big baseball fans. He says when they got inside the stadium they were blown away.
"First impression was ... wow! They had the Twins game on the monster screen, just crystal clear, from the last game of the season," said Maher. "We sat here for a while because we were pretty tired, and then we took a lap. This stadium is awesome."
Maher and Anderson checked out the view from all vantage points Saturday morning and agreed -- there are no bad seats in the house. Plus, Anderson says, it's all about outdoor baseball.
"I love it. It's a big upgrade from the Metrodome," he said.
Minnesota has not had an outdoor professional baseball stadium since Metropolitan Stadium closed in the early 1980s.
Minutes before the game, four friends, all in their 20s and all wearing Minnesota sweatshirts, came through the gate. As they waited by the turnstiles for the rest of their group, Sarah Larson said she's not sad to say goodbye to the Metrodome.
"I have a lot of memories of the Metrodome and I was at one of the last games there. It's kind of sad, but it's not a place to play baseball," said Larson.
Anna Moes said she wasn't worried about how the outdoor stadium could complicate games.
"It's Minnesota. We know the weather. We know it's going to be cold," said Moes. "We are Minnesota people. We are going to suck it up, we are going to play, and we are going to kick butt!"
Judging from the crowd, lots of people feel the same way.
Twins officials say 37,757 people came through the turnstiles Saturday. Tickets were $2 and some fans paid the price just to get a look at the new stadium. The concourse was packed all day with fans decked out in team gear. Most fans who spoke to Minnesota Public Radio said they were impressed with Target Field's design.
But there were problems. Many fans grumbled about disorganization and long lines for food and drinks.
Twins spokesman Kevin Smith says that's one reason the team let the U play the first game, so the Gophers could be the "guinea pigs" and help identify problems before the Twins play at the park next weekend.
"When we sit down to debrief, we will have a lot of information," said Smith. "We will either change things, move things or make things better, so we can get ready for these games next weekend."
Smith says overall the day went smoothly. Team officials plan to meet in the next few days to discuss ways to improve service.
After the game, Gophers coach John Anderson told reporters that despite the loss, it was still a great experience for the team.
"It was a wonderful environment to play in and for your kids to have a chance to experience," said Anderson.
The Twins begin play at Target Field next Friday and Saturday with a pair of exhibition games. Their season home opener at the new 40,000-seat stadium will be April 12.