Much has been written about the beauty of Target Field. It truly is a gem for our community and a jewel of a stadium. What you might not have thought about is how the stadium layout creates many different microclimates for fans.
Fans behind home plate enjoy Saturday’s first ever game at Target Field. (Photos by Paul Huttner. Click on image for bigger picture)
As a meteorologist at last Saturday’s first ever baseball game at Target Field, I viewed the stadium with sun angles and prevailing wind directions in mind. No matter what kind of weather you’re looking for at TF, I think you’ll find it. Here are some of my observations about possible microclimates at Target Field.
Sun & shade:
Target Field is oriented so that home plate is on the west end of the stadium. That means looking out toward center field is toward the east, and the center field seats face directly west.
For afternoon games, the sun will be shining directly onto seats from the outfield 3rd base line, and into the bleachers in left and center fields. If you want to bask in the afternoon and evening sun, this will be the place to be. The right field seats will also be in sunshine, but at an angle to the left side of most fans. Shade will also reach these seats first in the late afternoon.
On sunny days it will feel as much as 10 to 20 degrees warmer/hotter in left and center field than behind home plate. This will be nice in cooler days, but excess heat may be an issue on hot sunny summer days. Get ready to see some shirtless fans in the bleachers!
The left and center field bleachers will see the most direct sun for afternoon games.
The taller west side of the stadium structure means that shade will be extensive on the 1st base side, behind home plate, and wrapping over to about 3rd base. This will be a nice place to be on hot sunny summer days, but will make it feel much cooler on chilly days. Those overhead heaters will come in handy on chilly days like Saturday.
Fans catching some heat from overhead heaters in the left field corner.
Wind and shelter:
When the wind blows at TF, things are going to be sheltered areas and some areas where the wind speed may be increased by areas wind tunnel like effects.
The most open part of the structure is in right field next to Target Plaza which opens to downtown. This area opens to the southeast, which is the most prevalent wind direction in the summer months. On windy days from the south or southeast, the wind is going to blast into the stadium from right field blowing toward home plate and 3rd base.
Target Plaza and right field are the most open areas for gusty winds.
This will make the right field overlook one of the most exposed areas in the stadium. Even though it’s only 328 feet down the right field line, It may also knock down a few deep fly balls from the Twins lefty-dominated lineup on windy days from the south. Things are going to get really interesting in the wind for right fielders with the overlook hanging in play overhead.
The overlook in right field.
Another area that will be interesting on windy days will be the stadium openings behind 1st base and on either side of the roof deck in the left filed corner near the fair pole. Openings in the stadium will force the wind to rush though these areas, creating a wind tunnel effect. It may not be the hurricane we’re used to when leaving the Metrodome, but some bad hair days may result.
Openings around the roof deck and Twin executive office structure may create some “wind tunnel” like effects on windy days.
The flip side is behind home plate and down each base line. Even though there was not too much wind Saturday, I was amazed at how sheltered these areas are from wind. It may be relatively calm on windy days behind home plate.
The view toward home from left field.
It will be interesting to see how the stadium structure creates eddies during a big nor’wester. Our most common wind direction in spring and fall, a northwest wind will blow from near the 3rd base line out toward right field. The stadium structure will create a huge wind break, but may also create an eddy, or rotor on the downwind side. It will be interesting to see how deep fly balls carry in a northwest wind. Will they fly out unimpaired, or will the downdraft from an eddy knock some balls down before they can reach the seats?
Gophers shortstop A.J. Petterson prepares to drive in a run.
Rain returns to Minnesota baseball:
Minnesotans will have to get used to the words rain and baseball in the same sentence again! We’ve been protected by the “Thunderdome” since the 80s, but this year the elements will be in full play at Target Field.
To be fair, there are many “dry” areas in Target Filed. There is cover under the upper level canopy, in left field, and in the concourse behind the majority of seats from the left field corner all the way around behind home plate to the right field corner. And then there’s all the climate controlled luxury of the Legend’s Club and many other indoor bars and areas. Not to mention the suites.
The Kriby Puckett Atrium in the Legend’s Club features climate controlled comfort.
But if you’re in most of the seats at TF, you’re going to get wet when it rains. That’s just the way it is with outdoor baseball. Again, center and right field will be the most exposed. And there is no hiding on Target Plaza when the rain pours down.
Home field advantage? Home bull pen under cover, visitors in the elements?
In severe weather situations there are many “safe” areas to find shelter. The extensive glass of the metropolitan club and roof deck could be an issue if the winds reach tornadic force. But in that case there would be a lot of debris flying around that blows in from outside TF as well.
Let’s hope we never have to test that scenario. While events like the tornado in downtown Minneapolis last August 19th show it can happen, the odds of a direct hit by a tornado on Target Filed are extremely rare.
The bottom line from someone who looks at outdoor spaces with an eye toward weather and climate is that Target Filed is a very well designed outdoor sports venue. It strikes the right balance of open space and shelter. There are areas for fans to move to and seek warmer or cooler microclimates. Like Minnesota weather, Target Field should offer Minnesotans several microclimates or “seasons” in the same day!