Twins in full-scale planning mode for All-Star Game
Large scope of Midsummer Classic has organization preparing as event approaches
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Twins last hosted the All-Star Game in 1985, there were just three events associated with the Midsummer Classic.
There was the first Home Run Derby, a 500-person gala that night and the All-Star Game at the Metrodome the next day.
But nearly 30 years later, the All-Star Game has grown into a weeklong event that features much more than just the game, with several marquee events such as the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game and the Gillette Home Run Derby. There's also the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest held from July 11-15, as well as countless charity efforts that will raise a record $8 million throughout the region.
There's also a free concert at TCF Bank Stadium featuring Imagine Dragons on July 12, the Color Run MLB All-Star 5K charity race featuring more than 23,000 participants on July 13, a 5,000-person private gala that night and a red carpet parade from Nicollet Mall onto Seventh Street that leads right into Target Field before the All-Star Game on July 15.
"It's huge," Twins president Dave St. Peter said. "There are few events in America that are more significant in size and scope and magnitude than the All-Star Game. It's obviously a crown jewel for Major League Baseball and has a lot of tradition. It's truly a celebration of the game, and with that comes with the best players, but also a large magnitude of events well beyond what it was in 1985."
The Twins had their eye on hosting the 2014 All-Star Game while still in the planning stages of Target Field, which opened in its downtown Minneapolis location in 2010. They made their bid in late '11, before being officially awarded the game in August '12.
With so many moving parts to hosting an All-Star Game, the Twins began their planning efforts even before getting the bid, as they sent a contingent of employees to the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City to get a feel for the scope of the event.
"We had the goal all along when Target Field was under construction," said Kevin Smith, the Twins' senior director of corporate communications and broadcasting. "So we've really been working on hosting the All-Star Game for several years now."
The Twins have been working in tandem with Major League Baseball since being selected as hosts, with MLB employees flying from New York to the Twin Cities roughly once a month to help with the planning.
The organization also sent roughly 25 employees to the All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York last year, with meetings throughout the week with MLB executives and employees.
Minnesota came away understanding what to expect from hosting an All-Star Game, but with Target Field located in the heart of downtown in the Warehouse District, it's a much different locale from the last two All-Star Games, which were both held outside of downtown areas.
The Twins are trying to use the coziness of Target Field -- which sits on just 8 1/2 acres and holds 39,021 fans -- to their advantage, but it comes with disadvantages as well.
The major advantage is nearly all of the events associated with the Midsummer Classic will be held within walking distance in downtown Minneapolis, and the Twins have started the process of decorating the city to publicize the event.
The All-Star Game seemed to be lost in the shuffle of the immenseness of New York City last year, so the Twins are trying to replicate the more intimate feel associated with cities such as Indianapolis, when it hosted the Super Bowl in 2012.
"I think it's a unique advantage that cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul have in hosting an event like this. You can create a critical mass for an event," St. Peter said. "There's walkability from the various events to each other, so it makes a more efficient and more memorable experience. And there's something to be said about painting the town red."
The Twins have also been working hand in hand with the city about safety concerns with the Minneapolis Police Department committing more police officers on the street throughout All-Star Week. The organization also worked with the city on the creation of Target Field Station adjacent to the ballpark to increase transit options, especially with the addition of the Green Line light rail train that runs to and from St. Paul.
Minnesota has also been busy making upgrades to the ballpark, including the addition of new security measures such as MLB-mandated metal detectors at each gate. The Twins have also upgraded their Wi-Fi capabilities, especially with the overflow of media that will be accommodated in auxiliary press boxes built into six sections in the main concourse. More than 500 working credentials will be handed out for the game.
"A substantial upgrade was made to the Wi-Fi network and to our distributed antenna system for cell phone coverage," said Matt Hoy, Minnesota's senior vice president of operations. "I would say we have the most robust Wi-Fi network of any ballpark in the country right now."
But with their confined space downtown, the Twins have had to work closely with their broadcast partners such as FOX, ESPN and MLB Network to find enough room in the south parking lot for their equipment such as satellite uplink trucks, power generators and other equipment.
They also have limited space for a designated sponsor zone that will occupy a parking lot on First Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets. Target, Budweiser, Pepsi and Chevrolet are among the major sponsors who will host special events there, such as the opportunity to see the Budweiser Clydesdales and drive a Corvette.
So the Twins have found a way to work through those space-related issues, and they believe the intimacy of downtown Minneapolis will ultimately work to their benefit, as it's expected to bring an economic impact of $75 million to the region.
"The challenge is the footprint, but it's also the blessing," Smith said. "You have the light rail and people can walk, so I think the beauty of it far outweighs the challenges."
So with the All-Star Game and all the events that come with All-Star Week right around the corner, the Twins have moved past the planning stage and have begun implementing their plans, and they will need the help of more than 1,000 volunteers in addition to their own staff. They'll be working around the clock once Minnesota finishes its homestand on July 8 to make sure everything is ready to go for one of baseball's biggest showcases.
"We're in executing mode," St. Peter said. "So it's a stressful time, but an exciting time. Many people on our staff will never have the chance to work an All-Star Game again, so you approach it with tremendous diligence and the understanding it's an honor for our organization."