Spring training is underway in Florida, but there is plenty to do at Target Field before the 2013 season starts in Minneapolis (like melting the snow). FOX Sports North caught up with Minnesota Twins president Dave St. Peter to find out what fans can look forward to this upcoming season and beyond at Target Field.
FSN: The team has made several changes to Target Field since it opened in 2010. Are there any changes fans can expect to see in 2013?
ST. PETER: Every year, we're going to work hard to make sure the ballpark remains as pristine and as exiting as it was for the first few years of the ballpark. This year when people come to the park, the biggest change they'll see in terms of the physical seating bowl will be the right-field bleachers area has been converted into the section of seats that now features drink rails and stools and a small canopy that kind of mimics the overall roof canopy for the ballpark. That seating area was really designed to help address a section of seats that had been somewhat obstructed from center field. You didn't have a great view of center field from there. We in essence raised the floor up there and put people up on stools to give them a better sight line of the field. We're excited about the interest that's been generated with those seats. I think we're about 80 to 90 percent sold through already for the season on that particular seating section.
Beyond that, certainly there have been incremental investments in terms of technology here at the ballpark. Certainly, we've worked hard to continue to expand memorabilia displays and different artwork throughout the building.
And then a lot of focus again on food and beverage. Some of those things will be kind of behind the scenes, aimed at continuing to enhance customer service and cut down wait times. In addition to that, in the next few weeks we'll lay out the Target Field menu for 2013, which certainly continues to evolve and will include a number of new signature items from different Minnesota brands.
FSN: Any giveaways that you're particularly looking forward to?
ST. PETER: I think the big story will be the bobbleheads are coming back. We gave away bobbleheads every year from 2000 through 2011. We did not do a bobblehead giveaway in 2012.
We're going to bring back a couple different giveaways, and that has certainly gotten people's attention. The barbecue spatula for Father's Day, obviously the Dairy Queen cap nights are a summer tradition here in Minnesota, the Turn Back the Clock Game, last year we played as the Millers from the American Association and this year we'll play as the 1948 St. Paul Saints. There will be a commemorative pennant given away that night. That should be fun. A number of different things on that special even calendar, fireworks nights, etc.
FSN: The Twins' radio broadcasts are making the move to the FM dial for the upcoming season. How significant is that for the organization?
ST. PETER: Certainly, we understand the passion that our fans have for following the Twins on television as well as on radio. This year, we're excited about, for the first time ever, fans in the Twin Cities metropolitan area will have a chance to listen to the Twins in FM.
KTWIN, 96.3 FM, will be the new metro affiliate for the Minnesota Twins. That certainly is going to, we think, be an enhancement in terms of not only the way it sounds but overall the signal strength within the Twin Cities metro. It doesn't change anything in terms of our overall radio networks. We will still have 80-plus stations on the Treasure Island Baseball Network. I think for fans in the metro, it'll be a significant upgrade. We're excited about that partnership with KTWIN.
FSN: With single-game tickets going on sale last week, what have you seen from the ticket sale numbers at this point in the winter?
ST. PETER: We've been pleased. Relative to the first couple years at Target Field, they're down. But based on going into Year 4 and coming off two pretty difficult years, I'm not necessarily surprised by that.
I think the good news is I think we'll surpass 19,000 full-season-ticket equivalents. Our group ticket business continues to be on the rise. Last week was our presale. We sold more than 50,000 seats. I think we feel that we're well on track to certainly have attendance in the 2.5 million range. It's our hope that it'll rise to somewhere in the 2.75 to 2.8 (million) range, maybe even take a shot at 3 million. But I think as of right now, the message is we're pleased, but there are certainly tickets available for all games, including the home opener. We expect that game to sell out here in the next couple weeks. People have an opportunity to secure seats now that they maybe haven't had that chance to do in the first three years.
FSN: In talking with fans, do you sense some optimism after two losing seasons?
ST. PETER: First and foremost, I think there's still a heavy level of passion for the Twins. I think people obviously are into the brand and want to see the team do well. I do think there's a little bit of a wait-and-see approach. There's a lot of new faces. I think our fans certainly have grown frustrated with the last two seasons. I think there's a growing level of optimism that the likes of a Vance Worley and a Mike Pelfrey and a Kyle Gibson and others can really be part of a starting rotation that returns us back to not only being competitive but hopefully being a contender. I think we're seeing incremental excitement week after week, and hopefully we can get off to a good start in spring training and continue to build on that excitement over the course of the next 30 days.
FSN: Speaking of hearing from fans, you're very active and interactive on Twitter (@TwinsPrez). What do you enjoy about using Twitter?
ST. PETER: I have found it to be a great way to communicate with fans. There's certainly going to be times when you may ignore things. Not everything on Twitter probably has a tremendous amount of credibility. I tend to think it's an important communication tool with a growing segment of fans. I think frankly there has been a lot of positives in terms of being able to answer questions, provide context and just overall building the relationship directly with fans and getting rid of those perceived barriers.
FSN: The University of Minnesota men's hockey team just played an outdoor game in Chicago last weekend. What's the latest on a possible hockey game at Target Field in the future?
ST. PETER: We still dream about it. We've made no mistake that we'd like to play hockey at Target Field. That said, we've also said repeatedly that we'd like that to be in conjunction with the Winter Classic. That's the optimal event in terms of outdoor hockey. We think we can do a wonderful job showcasing that even for the Wild in the NHL and also would like to do some college and high school hockey in conjunction with that even. We remain hopeful, but at this point it remains to be seen whether Minnesota would get a game. I think the first game that's going to be available is going to be January of 2015. Rest assured, we'll continue to stay close to the Wild and the National Hockey League regarding that interest.
FSN: You also hosted the first-ever concert at Target Field last summer and have another scheduled for this summer. How was that received, and are there plans for more in the future?
ST. PETER: It was a home run in every sense. The fan feedback and the guest experience from all measurements was outstanding. We had 43,000 people here. Of course it was a beautiful night, which helped. But we think that Target Field, long term, is going to be known as one of the better outdoor concert venues. The sight lines were fantastic. The acoustics were even better. We're excited about the second (Kenny) Chesney show, this time with Zac Brown. It sold out in less than 30 minutes. There's no reason to believe that there won't be many, many more incremental concerts. It's even possible that there could be another one in 2013. We're still looking at acts and still in conversation with some people.
FSN: Back to baseball, what have been your impressions of the offseason that general manager Terry Ryan and others in the front office put together?
ST. PETER: I feel good about it. I think we've said throughout this process that there are no shortcuts, that ultimately what we're trying to build here is a team that's going to have sustained success over the long term. The best way to do that, in our mind the only way to do that was to build it from within. So that continues to be the No. 1priority is our player development system and overall adding players through the draft and through some more baseball moves. Meanwhile, I think we also understood that we needed to make some moves to shore up the starting pitching staff for today. I think we feel pretty good about the way we did that. Ultimately, there's certainly going to be risk to some of those moves, but at the end of the day we felt like the risks were worth taking.
The good news is we have generally good health. I really like our chances to surprise some people. I fully expect us to be competitive and, to be honest with you, it's my strong belief that we'll be playing some meaningful baseball games here in August and September.
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