August 30, 2007
The Last Hurrah
I had a great time tonight at the Ballpark Groundbreaking Celebration. Sorry I didn't bring a camera, but I thought I would just go as a regular fan tonight and keep things on the down low. Now I wish I had brought one. The crowd was huge, the anti-stadium wing-nuts were out and entertaining as usual, there were a lot of past and present Twins there, and they had 6 rounds of ceremonial groundbreaking/shovel digging. There was lots of stuff to take pictures of (especially for reasons revealed later in this post). Bummer. I'm sure Rick will have a bunch though.
Anyway, once I got there I immediately ran into Freealonzo. I thought that was amazing since there were so many people there. I didn't think I would run into anyone I knew. And then I ran into Jeff Thompson. Great to meet you Jeff! It was fun talking with you during the ceremony.
I was pretty impressed with the ceremony on the whole. It was entertaining and it kept moving at a pretty good pace. When Pohlad gave that little girl the $5 bill, I said to Freealonzo, "I think we just witnessed a miracle." Freealonzo quipped back, "He probably justified it because he made a tidy little profit on the Twins t-shirt she is wearing." Ha! Funny stuff. Hrbek's speech was hilarious too, and I thought Carew and Killebrew had some great things to say about the history of MLB baseball in the area. It was all very compelling.
After the ceremony I got to meet Mark Snyder, another regular reader of this blog. Great to meet you Mark! I had a fun time talking with you too. Mark and I then took advantage of the $1 bratwursts and beverages, and then we started to walk back towards the city. That is when something really interesting happened.
Now, I don't write this to brag or sound like I am all that and a bag of chips. I just thought this was cool, and quite frankly unexpected.
As Mark and I were walking towards the 5th St. garage, someone sidled up next to me and said, "I feel like I should know you."
I turned around and it was Brad Finstad! You know, the author of the Twins stadium bill in the House. So, I said, "Brad Finstad! Hi, my name is Shane. I'm the author of the Greet Machine."
He said, and I swear he actually said this, "Shane! I am so happy we can finally meet! Do you have any idea how important the Greet Machine was to the passage of this bill?"
Laughing, I said, "Really? Actually, I have heard rumors to that fact, but it is certainly more meaningful coming from you. Thanks! Ummm ... how exactly did the Greet Machine help?"
He replied, "Well, a fair number of legislators used the Greet Machine as their main source of stadium news. On a regular basis legislators would come to me telling me about something that you wrote. Also, I printed off your Voter's Guide and used it to keep notes on where legislators stood on the issue."
At this point, a stadium lobbyist with Finstad said, "You wrote the Voter's Guide? Wow, that was really accurate. You did a nice job on that."
As you might imagine, I was pretty blown away by this praise. Then Brad called out, "Hey Steve! Get over here, you gotta meet this guy. This is Shane, the author of the Greet Machine."
So, Steve Sviggum sticks out his hand and says, "Nice to meet you, Shane." I could tell he still didn't have a clue who I was so Brad piped up, "He wrote the Voter's Guide."
Recognition spread across his face. "Oh the Voter's Guide? Nice job on that!"
Amazing ... Brad and I talked some more about those fateful days in May 2006 and how Steve Kelly stalled the process somewhat. I could tell the conversation was coming to a close, so I stuck out my hand and said, "Brad, you are the one that deserves all the praise. Without your leadership this bill would have never been written, let alone passed, so from the bottom of my heart I thank you for all of this."
I think he appreciated that, we shook hands, and we parted ways. Anyway, how cool is that?
I know some of you probably consider this as proof of my crimes against humanity. I have given up a long time ago trying to change your mind.
Needless to say, I am proud of the contribution I made to the effort to get a new ballpark built in Minnesota. I am fully convinced that a new ballpark will make Minnesota a better place to live, and I can't wait to watch outdoor baseball in 2010. I fully realize that this blog was a very, very small piece of the puzzle, but it was still something. When I sit in Wheaties Field for the first time, I will be very happy that I played a part, no matter how small it was.
Tonight was a good way to finally give all this a little closure. I had some good times on this blog over the past three years, you know? And I'm thrilled that it had an impact. Those were my glory days of fighting the good fight. As you can probably tell, I still write every now and again about some stupid topic, but I don't have the same panicked focus that I had when the Twins stadium issue was up in the air. It is nice that all that is over, but ... ha! ... those were some fun times. Sure I got some closure tonight, but it was also a reminder of how far we have come and the fight it took to get here.
Anyway, I had a good time. Talk to you again later!
Yeah, I'll be there
I will be there. If you are anti-stadium and you are planning on coming to protest this boondoggle, and you would like to give me a piece of your mind, I am a short, swarthy, stocky, hairy man with a dark complexion and a handle-bar mustache. Good luck trying to find me.
August 29, 2007
I am one of the 47,000 homes in the Twin Cities area without power. The transformer that powers my home, and seven others (including Cheesehead Craig's) blew out two nights ago in spectacular fashion. It was like a fireworks display. So, I have been living like they did in the good old days: with candles and an early bed time.
Needless to say, I also have no refrigerator, no hot water, no stove or oven ... but worst of all, I have no computer! Oh, the humanity! TV I can live without, by a computer? If not for work, I would be having serious withdrawal symptoms.
But, as I am at work, I will be keeping this short. Until next time!
August 27, 2007
Tonight is the night!
UPDATE: That was probably one of the best, if not the best, concert I have ever seen. I was smiling and laughing so much my face hurts. More later, but wow ... what a show.
Ah yeah, my homies! Tonight I'll be basking in the sound of the musical genius that is Weird Al. And this will be my second Weird Al concert. I saw him play at Valley Fair when I was 12, and now I will see him again tonight at the Minnesota State Fair! Now all I have to do is pray that there won't be any severe weather. Things are not looking good.
Gotta go for now. I'll be sure to give a full review of the show. Later!
August 21, 2007
Let's talk about the Vikes
Touchdown Vikings defense! Man I hate those ugly pants.
Here we go again. The NFL season is about to start, and once again I am feeling optimistic. Every year, there is an inkling of hope, a shred of "this could be the year" that gets me excited about watching Viking football. Will the Vikings finally reward my loyalty with a championship? The odds and history say no, but I am confident a day will come when I can say, "I never gave up hope. I was never a fair weather fan. I can now die in peace."
This year started with a mediocre performance against the St. Louis Rams, but the game against the Jets actually got me to sit up and pay attention. Three defensive touchdowns? Very nice. I fully realize that this was a pre-season game, but the Kool-Aid is tasting delicious. In fact, it didn't really sink in until I read this post-game comment from the Jets' Leon Washington:
"Whenever you turn the ball over, it's hard to win, especially when you play a good defense like Minnesota," running back Leon Washington said.
What? When did this happen? When did Minnesota get a good defense? True, the jury still is out, but the defensive line looks good ... the linebackers look good ... the secondary looks good. Could the defense actually be good? That would be strange ... but wonderful.
There is something satisfying about having a good defense. Having a good offense is definitely a plus, but having a good defense is something to brag about, even if you lose the game. You know what I mean ... "Well we couldn't score a touchdown even if the other team rolled out a red carpet to the end zone, but our defense held them to -132 yards, so I consider it a victory." I'm not sure our defense is at this caliber yet, but it would be nice if it was. It would be nice for a change to not groan at every third and long knowing the Vikings are about to give up another first down.
So, I'm optimistic. However, I've still got a bone to pick with Zygi. I thought it might take time to get used to them, but I still hate the new uniforms. What the heck was wrong with the old ones? These new uniforms have got to be the worst in the NFL. And my biggest problem is with the helmets.
Yes, the helmets. The change to the helmets borders on blasphemy. Let's take a look at the old helmet:
Timeless. Classic. Simple in its strength and already soaked in history. Why Zygi? Why? I might have been able to forgive everything about the new uniforms if you had left the helmets alone. But now, I cringe every time I see this:
Egads! What is with those sissy effects? Does Zygi want the helmet to be cute? Did Zygi worry that people couldn't imagine for themselves that the horns should actually stick out? Well, I am offended by your lack of faith in me Zygi! This helmet is an affront to the rich history of the Minnesota Vikings, and is almost as bad as the Wisconsin Motion W. It doesn't get much worse than that.
So, that's all I have to say. I'm optimistic once again, but would prefer the old Vikings helmet. I think that about sums it up.
August 20, 2007
Moving in the right direction
First of all ... yikes! Going to the Twins game tonight was somewhat of a mistake. Garza got pounded, and Raul Ibanez looked like AL MVP material. Not fun. Fortunately for me, on the way to the Dome someone gave me 4 Upper Club tickets for free. So, at least I didn't have to pay to see the Twins get waxed.
Back to the matter at hand, though. The condemnation reward is set at 23.8 million and anti-stadium wackos are all hot and bothered by it so we must be moving in the right direction. I am pleased. The best article I found on the condemnation award comes courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio. Opat says:
"We would have been thrilled to have a lower number, more toward the $13.8, in the teens somewhere. The other side wanted 65. So I feel good the commission saw the wisdom in something much more reasonable than $65 million."
The award exceeds the county's land acquisition budget, according to Opat. The county set aside $23 million of its $90 million infrastructure budget to pay for land. But that was supposed to cover the cost of easements and air rights. The Minnesota Twins have agreed to contribute an unspecified amount of money to help the county pay for infrastructure. But Opat says they still may have to cut back on certain features for the ballpark.
This is not an unexpected reaction. The county wanted the number to be in the teens. It is interesting to note, however, that the county's total land acquisition budget was $23 million. I'm not sure how much easements and air rights cost, but hopefully the Twins extra contributions will make up most of the difference. And "may have to cut back" certainly sounds better than "will have to cut back."
The MPR article also has the only detailed reaction from LPII and Hines:
Pogin says he has several partners to talk to before making a decision about an appeal. But if there is an appeal, he says the members of the commission may be called as witnesses.
On Monday, commissioner Larry Tucker filed a dissenting opinion with the court. Tucker wrote in his dissent that the award should have been another $10 million higher than the number reached by the two other panelists.
Pogin says Tucker would make a good witness for his side.
I think it is a given that the land owners will appeal after reading that. According to the article, both sides have 40 days to decide to appeal, and a trial would being on November 13. Again, I am of the opinion that there will definitely be a trial. I hope I'm wrong, but $23 million is a lot less than $65 million. Also, if the land owners think there is any chance they could get that extra $10 million, you better believe they will go for it.
However, even if there is an appeal it would appear the maximum extra money the landowners could possibly get is $10 million. That is not an "end of the world as we know" it type of number. It would seem that an extra $10 million would most certainly affect the infrastructure in a negative way, but a ballpark will still be built, and we will still be watching outdoor baseball in 2010. The worst is over, and we came out on top.
Now, as Cheesehead Craig has already pointed out, it is time to think about chickens and pork chops on a stick at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. More about my plans for the fair in a couple of days. Until then, don't let anyone get you down. There will be green grass and open sky in 2010. That may upset some people, but it sure doesn't upset me.
I've been notified by a longtime reader that the value is:
Not too shabby, if true. I've got a meeting. More thoughts later.
Update: Well, by now you've all figured out that the rumor is true. HA! So, in celebration of the ruling (which will seemingly allow some decent infrastructure to be built) I've decided to take my two boys to the Twins game tonight. In other words, my thoughts on this subject will have to wait. Until we meet again!
August 18, 2007
Stadium blue prints
Greetings reader! As promised, here are some blue prints I received from a subcontractor working on the stadium (thanks anonymous subcontractor!). In all, I received over 400 pages of blue prints. Most are views of different parts of the stadium in excruciating detail, and quite frankly most I can't really make sense of. Pilings and beams and cement, etc. etc. I have found that not only am I not a rocket scientist, I am also lacking knowledge in the area of stadium architecture. But there are some interesting prints, to be sure, that I cropped out for you. Here are about 30 prints.
Warning! The first two links below are pretty large PDF files of about 6MB a piece. You may have to wait awhile before they finish downloading.
As I looked through these files a few interesting details popped out at me:
- As you can tell, the first two links present overhead views of the stadium from blue prints created on different dates: July 12 and August 8. See if you can make out any big differences. I sure can't.
- Lots of pilings to be put in the ground. Lots. If I worked in that area I would be bringing some ear plugs to work for a while. Wow.
- A big concern of some stadium nutjobs like me has been the availability of affordable seating. Namely seating in the outfield. These designs certainly show a smattering of seating in the outfield. Will it be enough?
- It appears that some seating will be above the batter's eye.
- Both designs show that the scoreboard will be located above left-center field.
- There seems to be a gap in the seating in right field. Will this be the location of the stadium restaurant?
- And finally, the mysterious oval. Both designs show a large oval structure located behind left field and the third baseline. What the heck is this thing? The PDF "Page 61" is a close-up of the oval. Will it be a Twins ProShop? Another restaurant? A huge vortex that sucks the money right out of your wallet and throws it into Carl Pohlad's on site vault? What is it? Any ideas? Maybe I've missed something.
That is what immediately came to my attention. If you see anything else of interest let me (us) know. And as I said above, this is but the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many blue prints I actually received. If you want to see more (Rick of Twinsballpark2010?) just let me know. I'm sure someone could make more sense out of these things.
Now, depending on the results of the non-binding arbitration concerning the value of the stadium land, the stadium might actually look like this. I guess we'll find out on Monday. So far we've heard values of $37 million, $57 million, and Dave H. submitted a value of $21 million (thanks for the laugh Dave!). We'll have to wait until Monday. However, if it turns out to be $57 million ... wow. Pohlad will have to pony up, so it isn't all bad, but it certainly would affect the infrastructure. We'll just have to wait and see.
August 12, 2007
Recognize this house? Frankly, I would be surprised if you did given that this house was torn down in 1956. This house was known as the "Gates Castle" and could be located at 2501 East Lake of the Isles Boulevard in Minneapolis. According to the July 11, 1957 edition of the Star Tribune, the mansion had 40 bedrooms, gold doorknobs, parquet floors, and huge crystal chandeliers, all for the cost of $1 million. You can see more of this amazing residence through the Minnesota History Center Visual Resource Database.
What makes this mansion especially amazing, though, is that is was the first home in America to have air conditioning.
Built by Charles Gates in 1914 to entertain guests in "Italian Renaissance grandeur" the house also boasted an absolutely enormous "climate control unit" designed by Willis Carrier of Syracuse, NY. When completed, the first home air conditioner was almost 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 20 feet long, and it used ammonia as the coolant. And even more amazing (and probably luckily for the would-be residents of the home given the use of ammonia as the coolant), it is unknown if this air conditioner was ever used.
Before Charles Gates and his new bride were set to move into the mansion, Gates died. It is unknown how much his widow stayed in the mansion after his death, but in 1916 she remarried and moved east. The house was then sold to a man from St. Paul, but apparently he never lived there either. Again, the home was then demolished in 1956.
What a tragedy, heh? Like many people, though, I find it fascinating that a home in Minnesota, a state known mostly for its brutal winters, is the location for the first home air conditioning unit in the world. We do have some pretty hot and humid summers too, but the first home air conditioner? Here? You gotta admit that is somewhat unexpected.
Of course, today we take air conditioning and much of its history for granted. Personally I find the history and social ramifications of air conditioning fascinating. For example, air conditioning has drastically changed the culture of the South. Some argue that that the heat and humidity of the South gave the region some of its distinctive flair and unique architecture, but air conditioning has caused the South to be a more indoor culture. It has also made the region a more livable place for northerners to move in and bring their own cultural differences with them.
Some people also blame air conditioning for the rise of malls (going to indoor shopping areas rather than downtown), childhood obesity (kids play indoors way more today), the size of government (more comfortable office spaces has meant more "servants of the people"), or even the demise of trains and the rise of the automobile for long trips across the country. Could our reliance on foreign oil be pinned, in part, on the majestic air conditioner?
Personally, I think air conditioning has had a profound impact on a lot aspects of our lives, both good and bad, and that we haven't given this impact very much thought. If I was a smart person I would put together a book discussing the social ramifications of air conditioning. The stories, anecdotes, data, evidence ... it all seems to be there just waiting for someone to put it together in an accessible, entertaining, and thought provoking way.
Oh well. And thus ends another edition of "who gives a rat's butt theater."
August 9, 2007
This is so wrong
This picture is wrong on so many levels. As if KG being traded wasn't bad enough, now we get the punch in the gut of seeing KG in a Red Sox uniform. It is almost too much to bear. For years I've had to put up with people slobbering over themselves trying to explain that the Red Sox are the antithesis to the Yankees when in reality they are just the bratty little brother of the Bronx Bombers. And whinier and more annoying. Man I hate the Red Sox.
Unfortunately, it doesn't end there. Do you realize the Minneapolis area is still seemingly the perpetual farm club for Boston sports teams? David Ortiz, Laurence Maroney, Randy Moss, Phil Kessel ... heck even Jason Varitek was drafted by the Twins. And now KG. How much do I hate Boston? Let me count the ways.
And they have the most annoying sports columnist, too. Of course, I am talking about Bill Simmons, aka the "Boston Sports Guy," who through the years has never missed an opportunity to blather on about his precious Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins. I love Simmons' writings on popular culture. His musings on Hoosiers are hilarious. But his views on sports are so skewed towards a certain city in Massachusetts it is sickening.
I'll never forgive him for supporting the contraction of the Twins, and suggesting that the Twins and Expos could be combined to make a team in Las Vegas. As long as his Boston Red Sox are OK, what does he care? His derision overall for Minnesota sports teams is well documented, and now he gets to cheer for all our former best players? Including KG? You all know what Simmons has called KG over the years? The 'Greatest Second Banana of All Time.' Nice. In fact, during the Wolves-Kings series a few years back Simmons had a lot of nice things to say about KG:
Still, I'm going with the Kings. I just think the Wolves have too much pressure on them. Hope I'm wrong -- I like KG. Even if he let down his boys in Chicago for life by taking two steps back from AP.
You remember when Anthony Peeler took a swing at KG? First of all KG is from South Carolina, you moron, and more importantly what exactly would you have had KG do? Most people praised KG for holding back to make sure he would play in game 7, but would you have him risk all of that to protect his "street cred?" Of course you would:
"All he needed to do was either A) give him the old two-handed shove, or B) grab him by the neck like MJ did to Reggie Miller that time. Neither of those things would have gotten him kicked out of Game 7. But by taking two steps back and standing there he basically backed down. And your best player can't back down."
This guy gets to cheer for KG? And we have to put up with Simmons giving KG and McHale a virtual thigh massage? After all the negativity Simmons has thrown towards KG it is just wrong! Man I hate Boston.
August 7, 2007
Well, did anything happen while I was gone? Heh. Just kidding. I think it is an understatement to say that we all received a roundhouse kick to the head over this one. Quite frankly, it has left me speechless. For a while I haven't known what to say besides my heart and prayers go out to those that lost loved ones in the disaster, and to those that were injured. This is absolutely terrible, and we need to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.
But I feel like I can't write about anything else until I write something about this, so here it goes.
Based on some of the negative comments I have already received, I am guessing a few of you are just itching to lay into me and my suspect priorities. Go ahead if it makes you feel any better. In fact, it is my opinion that everything is fair game when discussing something as important as bridges and other like infrastructure. And it appears that everything is fair game. I have read a lot of opinions on where to lay the blame:
- Pawlenty is taking some obvious heat for his vetos and threatened vetos of transportation spending bills and tax increases. Can't help you there T-Paw. You made some choices, and they didn't work out. With every choice, there are consequences.
- I have read a lot of opinions that the LRT is to blame and that we should have diverted funding for this "boondoggle" to necessary infrastructure improvements.
- I have read opinions that we spend too much on welfare and other social services, and this money should have been diverted to infrastructure improvements.
- The Iraq war has come up once or twice.
- And of course, above all else, I have read opinions that the time and money wasted on building unnecessary amenities like a new Twins stadium demonstrates how out of whack our priorities are as a society.
Like I said, everything is fair game. Give the choice between reinforcing that bridge and saving lives, or building a new Twins stadium I would have picked the bridge every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Hind sight is 20-20, of course, but I would be surprised if any Twins stadium proponent felt differently.
Now for some of my well-formed opinions on this. First of all, I don't care if T-Paw or Hatch was governor, if the legislature was controlled by the DFL or the Republicans, or if someone else was in charge of MNDOT, no one was going to repair that bridge. So, while I think T-Paw and Molnau are taking some understandable heat over this one, in the end it really doesn't matter who was in the governor's mansion because that bridge wasn't scheduled for major repairs until 2020. Some of you may disagree and suggest that different leadership somewhere would have made this bridge a priority, but I just don't see it.
This does not mean I don't think some adjustments are necessary, or that I think this bridge disaster isn't a wake up call to start investing more in our infrastructure. Politicians in Minnesota would be wise to heed the warning provied by this disaster and do whatever is necessary to make sure it never happens again. It is tragic, it is embarrassing, it is not what I want people around the world to think about when they think about Minnesota and the Twin Cities area.
I want people to think about our wonderful school system, our fantastic parks and natural resources, our cultural activities like theaters and art museums, and our four seasons and friendly people. And yes, I want people to think about the professional and college sports opportunities in the area. All of this together makes for our phenomenal quality of life.
The bridge disaster was a horrible accident, and I grieve for the families involved. But more than anything it was an accident. Priorities need to be examined, and at the very least infrastructure needs to be higher on the list. But unlike some shrill voices, I do not believe it is time to panic. This is one bridge out of thousands. As Minnesotans, I hope we can take this opportunity to thoughtfully reevaluate where we invest our money, while at the same time find a way where we can continue to have the good life. And let me just say right away, Zygi better start thinking of a plan B.