Those of my readers who live outside of the upper midwest may not be aware that the Minnesota Twins are in the market for a new stadium. The HHH Metrodome, which they have called home for the past 25 years, was originally designed for football, with the Minnesota Vikings franchise in mind. Back in the late 70s, early 80s, the Twins were having a tough time of it, while the Vikings were the premier sports team in Minnesota. So when it was decided to build a new sports stadium, it was designed for football, with the conversion option for baseball as almost an afterthought.

The dome’s sightlines were great for football, bad for baseball. If you sit beyond either dugout, you end up craning your neck to see the diamond. The pitcher’s mound is way off to one side, and home plate is even farther out of sight. A large section of the stands is beyond the left field fence, seemingly miles from home plate; and to those sitting in the upper right field stands, the right fielder, and even the centerfielder, are invisible most of the game.

Besides the poor sightlines, there are speakers that are in the field of play; the walls behind the plate and down the foul lines are so high that there is no feeling of intimacy as there normally is in a real baseball stadium; and then there’s the roof.

The roof is of such a color that a high fly ball quickly becomes invisible to all but the most practiced players who have learned to keep their eye on the ball for its entire flight. Not good. And for many fans, and some of the players, too, it would be nice to see some sunshine on sunny days. Unfortunately, the Dome was not designed with a retractable roof, nor is it practical to add one.

So the Twins decided they need a new stadium, and real baseball fans agree. The wrangling has gone on for quite a few years in the state legislature, with the politicians for many years refusing to even consider paying for a new stadium, and the Twins threatening to leave if they don’t get one. But over the past year, they finally came to an agreement: the Twins…no, the state of Minnesota…would get a new major league baseball stadium, and it would be paid for by the Twins and Hennepin County.

OK, so the Twins are getting their new stadium…what’s the problem? A couple things: first, the stadium is being built in downtown Minneapolis. It appears that parking, as it is at the Metrodome, is scarce and hard to get to. And for those of us who live in outstate Minnesota as well as other states, the stadium itself is, and will be, hard to get to, and hard to get out of. It would have been much better for us if they built it out in one of the suburbs where people wouldn’t have to deal with inner city rush hour if they want to go to the ball park.

Secondly, and worst of all, the new ball park will have no roof at all! Sure, we’re sick of sitting inside on sunny, summer days. But this is Minnesota, for crying out loud! Today, April 6, 2007, we have had a high temperature of 29 degrees, with 20 to 30 mph winds, and it was snowing this morning. Fortunately, the Twins are supposed to be playing in Chicago tonight. Wait a second…they canceled the Twins and White Sox tonight because of cold weather! If they were playing in the Metrodome tonight, it would have been a comfortable 70 degrees with no wind, and there would have been no question about playing a baseball game.

We can have cold and snow in April and May, in late September and in October. And Minnesota is in the northern section of tornado alley, so we can have those all through the summer, as well as your everyday garden variety of thunderstorm. I’ve personally been in the Metrodome watching a Twins game during a tornado warning. I would have to honestly say that over the past 25 years, at least 30% of the games I’ve been to in the Dome have been played during a rainstorm. It never bothered me too much, because I knew they were going to play baseball. They wouldn’t be rained out.

And now they want to build a stadium with no roof!

The Twins claim it’s now set in stone. There will be no roof, not even a retractable roof.

I’ve seen artists’ renderings of the new ball park. It’s a beautiful, real baseball park. It has everything the Metrodome doesn’t — except a retractable roof!

I’m afraid I won’t be attending many Twins games in the new ball park. It might be cold and rainy. There might be a tornado. Or it might snow. And it’s too much of a hassle just getting there. I think I’d rather stay home and watch the game on TV.

The Twins better hope there aren’t too many fans who think like I do.