“It’s kind of weird,” our tour guide said as we made our way back toward the clubhouse. “We’re just not used to having this nice of stuff.”
If you’ve been watching St. Paul Saints games in the deliciously trashy Midway Stadium over the last few years, you had gotten used to chipped-up walls, unexplainable stains, and aluminum bleachers you had to sit on just right lest a screw head dig into your butt cheek. Yet, it became synonymous with the Saints experience, so much that I quietly mourned the butt-bugging bumps and dirt-floored locker rooms when the final out was thrown at Midway last summer.
What would the Saints experience be now? Would they be too fancy for tailgaters and Dog Day? Would ticket prices go into the stratosphere? How was parking going to work? I heard the field was displacing a dog park. That sounds kind of mean. I had a lot of questions, and they were answered last Tuesday.
You’re going to like the news. Let’s take a look inside CHS Field, home of the new-school yet still somewhat old-school St. Paul Saints.
Our tour began in the clubhouse, where club-level season ticket-holders will smoke their pipes and talk about the Dow while we plebs take in the game below. The ceilings are mostly cedar — pardon me, reclaimed cedar. It’s gorgeous, and a far cry from the industrial shambles you’d look up at in Midway’s corridors.
They passed out free bottles of Summit and led us out into the open, where a good view of the field was not hard to come by. Here, look:
There are very few walls throughout. I can’t remember the architect’s name, but I did remember a) this was her first time designing a stadium; and b) she wanted to make the stadium a living part of Lowertown. Indeed, from just about anywhere you stand within CHS Field, you can see a part of the skyline. It’s Target Field-esque in that manner; but, with Lowertown less developed than downtown Minneapolis, the view from CHS extends for miles.
Some dude stepped on the grass and got bitched at. C’mon, stay off the grass means STAY OFF THE DAMN GRASS!
This mural was brought over from Midway, which I thought was a nice tip o’ the hat. The fenced in area behind it is the dog park the Saints to replace the park they displaced. It extends almost the length of the facility.
It’s long and narrow, but entirely fenced in and (I’d presume) will allow dogs to run off-leash. I never saw the dog park before the stadium started going up, but this will be a serviceable option for Lowertown’s canine community.
Pro-tip: Grab a Three Rivers Park District pass. Their off-leash dog parks are humongous, and pretty well spaced out in the Cities.
The seats are gray and blue, with occasional yellow seats mixed in and no discernible pattern to coloring. Our tour guide sounded unsure of the logic behind the yellows. It might come off as over-creative, but it’s a neat sight from afar. I paid off a hot chick to model seats for me by marrying her shortly before the tour began.
Let’s head inside — but first, let’s see if I can photograph an office while keeping the camera straight.
A large painting of the logo dominates the wall of a staircase going down from their front offices, and this one overlooks a luxury suite, which goes for $100/person and comes with a private patio and seating section. In all, it holds 25-36 people. This lack of Bill Murray’s face was a real missed opportunity, I think.
Speaking of misses, their batting cage used to be a jimmied-up contraption they dragged onto the field. Not anymore! Check out what they’ve got in the basement.
Looks sweet, doesn’t it? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Have a look at CHS Field’s crown jewel, the Saints’ new locker room.
Lining the top is a Saints Hall of Fame. We wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon in here taking pictures, but another tour group was moving through. At Midway, the locker room was dusty, cramped, and piecemeal; standing in here makes you feel like you’re a part of something special.
Some things aren’t finished, most notably the parking lots — most notably, the tailgate lots. Our guide also mentioned “rail-gating,” but I didn’t catch the details. Might that mean some tailgate lots will be farther off-site? I’ll get back to you on that. What I can confirm is Porter, and your dogs, will still be welcome to one game per year. This year’s Dog Day is June 6.* The Beer Dabbler is making the trip over, and Fireworks on Fridays continue.
So, what’s this going to cost you?
What if I said you could get in for a fiver? It’s true: the Saints will offer $5 tickets in a grass area, which will hold up to 200 people and be made available on game day. I don’t know what kind of stadium access that will grant (i.e. concessions, etc.), but the view won’t be shabby. If you want an actual seat, you can still get a good one behind the plate for under $20.
I was a skeptic at first, but CHS won me over. It was hard letting go of Midway, but the Saints deserve to play in something like this and the fans deserve to watch them in it. “The new” will take some getting used to, sure, but I think fans will embrace it with open bottles.
*I’m 99-percent sure that’s correct, but not 100-percent.