Behind the Scenes: Planning the MLB All Star Game on the League’s Most Urban Site
July 11, 2014 / Todd Barnes
For large scale events – from the Final Four to the Super Bowl to the MLB All Star Game – the experience may appear seamless to fans, but there is a flurry of activity that happens behind the scenes for months leading up to it. Events this size require a lot of the facilities that host them – and an experienced eye to utilize the space in the most effective, efficient way. We’ve been involved with the MLB All Star Game for fifteen years, guiding teams, their facility operators, city officials and the League as they prepare for the game itself, and designing overlay for the event that makes the ballpark function as efficiently as possible on game day. In those fifteen years, a lot has changed, including the scope of the event, the need for temporary spaces and the expectations of fans.
In turn, planning the MLB All Star Game – which starts nearly a full year in advance – isn’t without its challenges. Getting a ballpark All Star Game ready is a lengthy process that includes visits to the host city, a thorough evaluation of the stadium and plenty of meetings with all the functional groups involved – including the city, the team and the MLB’s event group, broadcast team, operations folks, concessionaires, sponsorship and merchandise personnel and many more. We assist MLB by engaging all stakeholders and make sure that there is consistency in vision and mission with all the folks involved – an approach that is also key to the success of our design projects. In addition to coordinating with many parties, all of whom play a critical role on game day, one of the most complex challenges of planning the All Star Game is shaping the event to a new city and a new ballpark each year. Every city and every ballpark has its own defining characteristics that contribute to the game day experience, including public transportation, ballpark location, proximity to downtown, surrounding development, the passion of local fans and the culture of the city. In spite of differences, from city to city, the quality of an event must remain the same – whether you’re in Minneapolis’ downtown or the suburbs of Kansas City – and our goal for MLB is always to deliver an incredible experience to baseball’s biggest fans.
At Target Field, the site has been integral to the ballpark’s success since opening in 2010 – and will also be critical to the All Star Game on Tuesday. The site is 8-acres – the smallest and most urban in Major League Baseball – and is surrounded by city elements from a freight train line, to a commuter rail to parking garages and a highway, that have shaped the ballpark experience in Minneapolis. These factors also required us to think more creatively about how MLB may activate spaces for pre and post-game festivities and the most seamless experience for fans as they travel to the game, enjoy the game and wander around the city afterwards. To address this, some imaginative solutions had to be developed. MLB and the Twins negotiated with city officials to close streets for broadcast and transportation operations.
And we worked with MLB to utilize the surrounding neighborhoods’ best attributes. This is part logistics, part creativity, or just thinking outside of the box, but the result includes a red carpet show that travels through downtown, sponsorship zones in city streets and 3 days of events at the stadium.
Each of these carefully planned events help build excitement for the game while shaping the experience visitors have in Minneapolis and at Target Field. The site has proven to be a true opportunity for Populous in our association with the Twins and MLB in planning, creating critical connectivity to Minneapolis’ bustling downtown. The 2014 All Star Game at Target Field promises to be one of the most incredible in recent memory and a milestone for a ballpark that has been a catalyst for Minneapolis’ continued revival.