Logo for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Target Field may have opened four seasons ago but, for all intents and purposes, its grand debut to baseball fans across the country came this year when the home of the Minnesota Twins hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
On July 15, the downtown Minneapolis ballpark packed in 41,048 fans for the Mid-Summer Classic.
“Target Field has built a reputation in its early years as a beautiful ballpark,” Twins’ President Dave St. Peter said. “But at the end of the day, this was an opportunity to show the facility to an international TV audience and give upwards of 3,000 credentialed media a spectacular facility to operate in. From all accounts, it was very well received.”
Preparation for hosting the All-Star Game started essentially when the ballpark opened as the team began a dialogue with MLB officials on what it would take to bring the game to Minnesota. In 2011, the team and city submitted a bid. They were awarded the game one year later.
From there, MLB took over. Baseball’s team of officials were in Minneapolis regularly working out details of the game and events surrounding it.
“They have a template that they trust and that has worked for them in other cities,” St. Peter said. “Whether it be the Future’s Game, Celebrity Softball, Red Carpet Parade, or Home Run Derby, you try to take those events and try to work the best you can to make them better and localize them.”
St. Peter said that MLB officials also worked with the Twins and Target Field on new events to make the entire week a better experience. For example, the Twins held a free concert at TCF Bank Stadium – home to Minnesota Golden Gophers football – which included popular rock band Imagine Dragons.
There was also a 5k for multiple charities called the “Color Run.” More than 27,000 participated, including multiple team mascots.
“Even though there was an army of people from MLB, in the trenches it was people here at Target Field that made everything go smoothly,” said Scott O’Connell, director of Suite & Premium Seat Sales & Service. “They knew the customers, they knew the facility and they executed things as smooth as you can imagine.”
Filling all of Target Field’s suites and premium seats also went smoothly, O’Connell said.
Upon opening in 2010, the Twins sold their 54 available suites on four-year contracts in order to have the All-Star Game as a part of the renewal package in 2014. Suite holders were given first dibs on booking for the Mid-Summer Classic. Major League Baseball was required to have 15 of their own suites including behind home plate for Commissioner Bud Selig. Everything else was sold – and sold quickly.
“We were getting calls from all over the country as far back as a year ago,” O’Connell said. “We aren’t like Cleveland or Texas that has 130 suites and flexibility to plug in anybody. We have to really make sure we maximize what we have.”
They prioritized which groups would receive the available suites by their level of involvement with the team. Suite holders received valet parking, access to events and an ever-expanding food menu.
“Our food and beverage profitability was through the roof,” O’Connell said. “It was certainly higher than we ever anticipated.”
A sprinkle of rain played a role in high food and beverage profits.
There was a one hour rain delay prior to the start of the Home Run Derby, which was as well attended as the actual All-Star Game. The extra hour in the park gave fans an opportunity to carouse the stadium and sample more concession stands than they might have otherwise.
“It was a financial windfall for us,” O’Connell said. “I don’t know if you can put an actual number on how much it meant, but by having people there for an additional hour from what would have normally been the end of the derby, it put tens, if not hundreds, of thousands into the profitability aspect.”
The ESPN-televised Home Run Derby was highly talked about for more than the drizzle. Oakland’s Yeonis Cespedes defended his 2013 crown, and due to several 500-foot blasts by Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. But the actual All-Star Game (on FOX) featured a moment that will put Target Field in the memories of baseball fans forever and be replayed on TV for years to come.
Future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter announced it would be his final season in baseball and thus his last All-Star Game. Halfway through the game, he was taken out of the game to an extended ovation. For the Twins and Target Field, it was the perfect chance to show off their park to millions of fans who tuned in to watch Jeter’s final All-Star moment.
“We thought the Jeter moment was wonderful,” St. Peter said. “As a host team, you want the game to be successful, but more importantly you want it to be memorable for all the right reasons. This will be, largely because of Jeter but also the closeness of the game and all that went into the performances of so many great players.”
O’Connell said he believes that the chance to showcase the park – especially as the backdrop to Jeter’s moment – will draw fans from other cities to come visit Target Field. Overall, TV ratings were up 9% from last season at 12.1 million viewers.
Next year the game will be played at 11-year-old Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Interviewed for this story: Scott O’Connell, (612) 659-3400; Dave St. Peter, (612) 659-3400