Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 16: Mall of America and the Ballpark Connection

You know no trip to Minneapolis is complete without a trip to Mall of America. Perhaps you thought that there was no way we would work it into our ballpark trip without it being a non-baseball sightseeing stop. Well, it is a baseball sightseeing spot and even a ballpark one. That is because the Mall of America is built where the Metropolitan Stadium once stood, which is where the Twins played until the Metrodome was built.

In what used to be the Camp Snoopy Amusement Park and is now a Nickelodeon themed park in the middle of the mall there are two things to search out related to the Metropolitan Stadium. One is the original red seat up on the wall near the Log Ride. This seat is where the longest home run in the stadium was hit. The other thing is a plaque commemorating where the home plate used to be. Unfortunately, rides block the view of the seat from home plate and make it hard to notice how far that homer was actually hit.

This was a fun stop in my opinion even though it was only a half hour stop. Mik hated it because he just wanted to get on the road after the Twins game and get to Chicago as soon as possible, but if we gave into his every complaint then we would see nothing. Dad seemed to think it was a worthwhile stop like I thought, so two out of three is not bad considering Mik’s lack of wanting to enjoy anything beyond the mini bats and food.

Baseball Museum 4: Dome Souvenirs Plus Baseball Museum

The Dome Souvenirs Plus is a souvenir shop with mostly Viking and Twins merchandise. It is located across the street (sort of) from the Gate A entrance to the Metrodome. Inside it is a small one room baseball museum (also called Classic Sports Museum on one part of the shop’s entrance). The museum is sort of a way of getting people into the shop, but it is pretty interesting.

The museum is a one room one, but it is jam packed with cases of memorabilia to the point it was a tight squeeze for Mik to get through it. The memorabilia is mostly Twins related, but also includes a lot of stuff from random other MLB teams. The displays include signed baseballs, Twins World Series memorabilia, old programs, and classic ball caps. It is not exactly enough to go out of your way to stop here, but it is more than the minimal reason we next ended up at the Mall of America. Also, if you want Twins souvenirs at least until the new Target Field opens this is the place to get them, as the inside the Metrodome shops stink.

Accessibility Review: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Overall I did not find the Metrodome too bad of a place to watch baseball, however, it does have some unique accessibility things to note. Let’s start with parking since that is the first thing we do at a ballpark. We found parking right across the street in the Dome Parking garage. However, there we got the last of two handicap spots that were on level one. Perhaps there were more on the second level, but boy was that a surprisingly few amount. At least it was convenient to the park and it had a large elevator.

Next going into the park is pretty easy to figure out as the gate for wheelchairs to enter is clearly marked. However, actually getting into the park is not as easy as it seems. You would think I could just open the door next to the revolving door and Dad push Mik through while I held it open, but no the usher insists you go through this odd set of doors. We go through the first set of automatic doors and then stand between the two yellow lines while the first set closes and then you can push the button to open the second set, but be careful and listen to the instructions or you end up being the idiot (DAD!!!!) that pushes the button that reopens the doors you just came through. Thus you then have to again wait for those to close and then finally end up with the correct button pushed and the doors in front of you opening, so you can finally five to ten minutes later finally end up in the park.

After that thankfully it was very straightforward to find the elevator to get up to the level we had seats on and there we had a friendly elevator operator. Then we found our section right after we got off the elevator. We get to the seats and they seem fine with them being in front of the section and the bar in front being in an okay position that does not block the sight much. Mik even got excited that the wheelchair spots have cup holders and me and dad in the regular seats have no cup holders, as you only get them in the regular seats if you are behind a row of seats since the cups are attached to the backs of seats only.

Mik soon ended up getting really obnoxious and pissed because another wheelchair arrives and sits in the spot next to him. He felt crowded, as this was the first time he had a stranger sitting next to him and similar to the annoyance of the standing people crowding him at the Dodger game. Such is the luxury he has had so far in the handicap section with at least always having one of us on each side and not having to sit next to a stranger until now, but that is no excuse for his rude behavior.

Now having someone next to him is not something I consider an issue in most cases, however, in the end it actually was an issue because in order for Mik to leave his spot the person had to move and then some musical chair sort of movements had to be orchestrated for Mik to escape to the concourse. This is what I found unacceptable about the accessible seating. At least the people with the lady were friendly about getting the lady and her wheelchair out of the way when necessary. I just do not think it is something either party should be inconvenienced with and it certainly could get annoying for either party or both if it had to take place during game play.

Let’s hope the seating situation is straight pull in at the new Target Field since that place was built for baseball. Also, not sure if this is how it is on the lower level, but honestly I only saw one little section of handicap seats on the lower level right down by the field, so almost all the handicap seating is like this in the upper level. It works if only one wheelchair is there, but since it was Strike Out Stroke Day almost ever section had two wheelchairs in each of the spots.

Now I do overall rate this the least accessible park so far, but I do not mean to say it is a bad experience, especially since there is lots of potential and hope for a Twins game to become a very accessibly enjoyable experience starting next season. I just think that without the thought of there for sure being a new stadium next season it would seem like a way worse situation that was not being dealt with.

Mik’s Food Scrapbook: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Since it was till morning when we arrived at the Metrodome and Mik had not had breakfast I pointed out the Lil’ Orbits Mini Doughnuts outside the ballpark. He ended up really enjoying these and he stopped letting me share them quickly and said I should have gotten my own bag of them since I knew I wanted some of them as I had had this brand at the Farmer’s Market once.

After loving the mini doughnuts from the stand out front of the Metrodome, Mik was excited to try the ones he saw on the menu inside the park. The ones in the park were State Fair brand Mini Doughnuts. They were not the same and more cakelike and sort of like the powdered ones you get in boxes at the grocery store except they were supposedly fresh. Mik disliked them, but they were not the only disappointment at the Metrodome.

The other disappointment was the hot dog. Mik did not like the hot dog at all and did not even finish his first one. Even the bun was not that great in his opinion, but what really turned him off was it seeming to taste like mustard despite Dad only putting ketchup on it. At least at this ballpark we did not exactly pay for the hot dog, as a voucher for a hot dog and a 12-ounce soda came with each ticket in the family section.

Accessibility Review: Safeco Field

Parking for Safeco Field was easy to find in the parking lot for Qwest Field (where the city’s NFL team plays) across the street from Safeco. The handicap spots were even located on the side of the parking lot nearest the park, although you do have to take the elevator down a level to be on street level to get to the park. That is a minor inconvenience, as it seemed few actually parked in this lot and the garage has the large passenger elevators.

Our seats were located in section 194, which is part of the centerfield bleachers. We were lined up to go in the gate near our section and about 10 minutes before the park opened to the general public they had us go around to the nearby gate that bypassed the turnstiles. The elevator to the centerfield bleachers handicap seating is then right inside the gate by the stairs that lead up to the seating. Thus getting to the section was quite easy and actually even quite close to the car with that entrance to the park being right across the street from the elevators for the parking garage. The Team Shop, however, was on the other side of the park, but we were there early and took care of that before the park opened like we have done at many of the parks.

The seats in the centerfield bleachers were clearly the cheap seats with the handicap seating literally being right under the scoreboard and actually slightly behind the raised scoreboard. That and they were way high up almost like nosebleed seats, but not quite as high as some of the sections on the baselines. At least the sightlines were not messed up at all and not even by a bar in front of the handicap seating. Mik, however, did not like the seats because we were so high up and the next row was even several feet below us. This might not have been the best, but it seemed the ones in the lower sections probably had the overhang sightline issue that we have so far only encountered at Dodger Stadium, so the more expensive seats are not always the best, especially when it comes to handicap seating being at the back of sections.

There were no cup holders in the handicap bleacher section, but there were not any in the other bleacher section rows either, so Mik at least did not feel left out. However, I do not think he would go for these high seats again if it was his choice.

Game 8: Cleveland Indians 3 @ Minnesota Twins 11

Today’s game was the first day game of the trip, but it did not feel much like one with it being at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which is one of the last remaining dome baseball stadiums (I think only the one in Tampa Bay is also a permanently closed roofed baseball stadium). It is often said to be the worst park for baseball and it is one of those obviously built for football and not baseball parks (Oakland was actually pretty well converted to baseball even though it is multipurpose). It really is not the most ideal way to see baseball for those we think it has to take place outside, but to Mik this was more like going to a baseball game since he has grown up with the BOB/Chase Field. I kind of like the roof aspect as it was a afternoon game, but as a night game the outdoor stadiums are much more enjoyable, especially for seeing sunsets. I am glad we did the trip this year and saw this stadium in its last year as a MLB stadium. Next year we will have to return and see their new park, Target Field.

Seeing the park really was not much, as even souvenir shopping stunk. I did enjoy walking around the upper level concourse and seeing the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame, but even that was not entirely interesting because it is mostly people and sports I could care less about, although it did include some baseball related figures. The souvenir shops were simply kiosks and no actual official Team Shop and the selection was rather limited, but it worked out in the end when we went to a off site souvenir shop that sells official merchandise. Will write more on the souvenir situation in the mini bat, baseball, and car sticker posts.

Our seats in section 216 was in the family section and that did not work out too well for Mik, because it was a rather crowded section including the wheelchair section and for the first time Mik had to deal with sitting next to someone. He did not like that at all and felt crowded and most off all is very rude about being around old people and it was an old woman next to him. The Angels game was similar, but the seating allowed Dad and I to sit on each side of him and he did not really notice, but here he was stuck next to the stranger. It turned out that it was Strike Out Stroke Day at the Park and it seemed pretty much all the handicap seating had the same problem, however, I imagine the family section has the issue regularly. More on the poor accessibility related to the seating in the Accessibility Review later.

The game itself was rather enjoyable, especially after Mik finally got lost in his PSP game. As it often seems with an American League game there was a lot of hits and runs. It may just be me, but it seems it is all about offense in the American League and the scores end up higher more often than the more defense oriented National League. Anyways, it was exciting to see a lot of home runs (5 total with 4 of them by Twins) in the game including the Twins #16 hitting two 3 RBI homers (one in the first inning and one in the second inning).

Day 16: Late Night on the Road Again

Plenty of posts coming about today related to Game 8 at the Metrodome and other Minneapolis doings, but currently still trying to get all the photos uploaded to go with them and it is rather slow going. The internet was working great in Minnesota the other night and until we left the Minneapolis area, but since then it has not been that great, although it is still better than the pretty much non-existent service in Montana and North Dakota.

Mik was not all that happy with today and became a pill again. He seems to like being on the road way more than actually being at the places that are the point of the trip. Once we finally got on the road again and out of Minneapolis he returned to his sweet self. He is excited about not sleeping in the tent tonight and sleeping in his comfy spot on the floor of Mom's apartment. Mom just texted us that she just landed in O'Hare, so Mik is now extremely excited about tonight and seeing Mom, too. He even stated that finding out we are for sure seeing Mom (have known for a few days it was a possibility, but for those of you that know her you know it is never for sure she is somewhere until she is actually there) was more exciting than the Lakers (his NBA team) currently ahead of Orlando in Game 1 of the Finals.

About 2 and half more hours until Chicago and I think we are all happy about a night in the apartment. I like tent camping and all, but not when I am also trying to use the Internet and my laptop does not work as a laptop because the battery has not held a charge for over a year. At least we do have a few electric sites further on in the trip including Saturday in St. Louis. Dad, of course, is happy for a night sleeping on sort of a bed.