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Stromgren column: Target Field and TCF Stadium will bring better fan experiences

Target Field. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

As part of a tour group earlier last week at Target Field and TCF Stadium, one person asked an interesting question.

"I wonder if the same things we're saying today are the same things people said about the Metrodome when they first walked around that building," he said.

The Dome is an easy target for national media, outdoor baseball lovers and the generally pretentious.

While the Metrodome does have obvious drawbacks for baseball, its still a venue that has many fond memories for those of us born after 1980 with no memories of The Met.

No matter how special Target Field will be, Twins baseball will always be defined in our generation by Kirby Puckett's home run in Game 6.

For friends and families who did not get the chance to see a momentous game at the Dome throughout the years, there are still collective experiences to share and remember.

But the punchlines will last forever. The Dome in some way will always be remembered for the troughs in the men's restrooms and opposing outfielders losing fly balls in the white ceiling.

That goes away next year with Target Field.

There's no doubt it will be a better facility and the sight lines will be improved. One of the most impressive things - even this early in construction - is how close fans will be to the game.

Like hockey games at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, there won't be a bad seat in the house.

For such a small piece of land, the stadium is a staggering sight. The stadium's price tag stands at $425 million ($350 million public contribution), and it has a feel of being twice that value.

Some of the seats were already installed this week and additional leg room will be appreciated. Those fans who sit on the left field home run porch will feel closer to the game than the people currently sitting behind home plate at the Dome.

The Dome was and is efficient. Target Field will be an experience.

On the other side of Minneapolis stands the nearly finished TCF Bank Stadium, home to the University of Minnesota football team.

Now that feels extravagant.

The club box features 250 leather seats and a bar area behind tall panes of glass that will protect from inclement weather.

Interestingly, the University appears to be on the verge of banning liquor sales, so the bar might be the first piece of construction out of date when the stadium opens Sept. 12 with visiting Air Force.

The regular seats, like at Target Field, are wider and more comfortable. Those in the bleacher seats won't be complaining either.

TCF will bring fans closer to the field, which certainly creates better game-day experiences.

The player facilities are equally impressive and put the Gophers on a competitive level with other schools in the Big 10 Conference.

In the belly of the 50,000 seat stadium sits the football-shaped locker room with 120 lockers. It is immense and is billed as the largest locker room in college football and the second biggest in the country (Green Bay is first).

Rose Bowl or BCS games never seemed possible in the Dome. It seems possible at TCF.

The anti-tax crowd will likely sneer when driving by the stadium as large stones encircle the building bearing the name of each Minnesota county.

Think of the stones as each county's tax contribution ($134 million by the state) that went toward the cost of the $288.5 million facility.

But sports is much a part of our state as it is in American life. The Twins and Gophers are Minnesota and that connection made these venues were worth subsidizing with careful consideration and negotiation.

The Vikings will have a much tougher road to a new stadium, as it should be given its current demands. The National Football League is a financial behemoth and reaps substantial revenue from many areas, including what are now becoming unaffordable ticket prices.

A fiscally responsible stadium would give reason for subsidizing. But owner Zygi Wilf's latest price tag for a potential Vikings Stadium is projected around $950 million with a $750 million public contribution.

The public should be part of investing in these types of major infrastructure projects, but $750 million is an unreasonable figure.

Those who follow the NFL know that defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth recently signed a $100 million, seven-year contract with the Washington Redskins - a player who, unlike the quarterback, does not touch the ball on every play.

This ridiculous salary means the NFL, which only had eight franchise payrolls under $100 million last season, can afford to significantly invest in a new stadium whatever the city.

If Minnesota truly means anything to the NFL, a $30 million investment from each of the 32 franchises ($960 million) could make a new Vikings stadium reality.

Spread that figure out over 10 year-period and that comes out to a little less $3 million per year per franchise - or the equivalent of what the Vikings paid backup tight end Jim Kleinsasser last season.

The combined public contribution to Target Field and TCF Stadium is around $484 million.

So what makes the Vikings need $750 million from Minnesota taxpayers?