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Metropolitan Stadium
The Met, Met Stadium" , "Old Met
Metropolitan Stadium aerial
Location 8000 Cedar Ave. South, Bloomington, Minnesota
Broke ground June, 1955
Opened April 24, 1956
Closed December 20, 1981
Demolished January 28, 1985
Owner City of Minneapolis
Operator City of Minneapolis
Surface Grass
Construction cost US$8.5 million
Architect Tepper Engineering
Tenants Minneapolis Millers (AA) (1956-1960)
Minnesota Twins (MLB) (1961-1981)
Minnesota Vikings (NFL) (1961-1981)
Minnesota Kicks (NASL) (1976-1981)
Capacity Baseball: 18,200 (1956)
30,637 (1961)
40,000 (1964)
45,919 (1975)
Football: 48,446

Metropolitan Stadium (often referred to as "the Met", "the Ice Palace" when the Minnesota Vikings played, "Met Stadium", or now "the Old Met" to distinguish from the Metrodome) was a sports stadium that once stood in Bloomington, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis. The area where the stadium once stood is now the site of the Mall of America. The Minneapolis Millers minor league baseball team played at Met Stadium from 1956 to 1960. The Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings then played at the "Met" from 1961 to 1981. The NASL soccer team Minnesota Kicks also played there from 1976 to 1981.

History Edit

Metropolitan Stadium opened in 1956 as the home of a minor league baseball team, the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association, replacing ancient Nicollet Park and built to major league specifications. Although located in Bloomington, the stadium was paid for by the city of Minneapolis. It sat in the middle of a 161 acre plot located in a cornfield, with all excess land set aside for parking. It originally seated 18,000, and would have seated more if not for an explosion and two fires. It was expanded to 22,000 in 1959.

In the 1950s, major league owners Calvin Griffith and Horace Stoneham called the stadium the finest facility in the minors; Stoneham added that "there were not two better" major league stadiums of the time (although not specifying which specific two he thought were the Met's equal)[1] Indeed, the Met's primary purpose was to attract a big-league team to the area. The National Football League (NFL) was also interested in placing a team at the Met. The Chicago Cardinals moved two of their home games against the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles to Bloomington for the 1959 NFL season. A preseason football game was held each year at the Met from 1956 to 1960.

The Millers were then the top farm team of Stoneham's New York Giants, and there was some hope or expectation that the Giants might relocate there. Under major league rules of the time, the Giants had priority rights to a major league team in the Twin Cities. The Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators also seriously considered moving there. However, the Giants chose to follow the Brooklyn Dodgers to the west coast. San Francisco had long been home to the Pacific Coast League's San Francisco Seals, the top farm team of the Boston Red Sox. As part of the deal, the Millers' parent team then became the Red Sox. The Red Sox were certainly not planning to move anywhere. However, in 1961, another American League entry, the Washington Senators, did, to become the Minnesota Twins. The Twins debuted on April 21, with a loss to the new Washington Senators.[1] The Millers and their perennial crosstown rival St. Paul Saints were then promptly folded by Major League Baseball. The Twins were joined that fall by an NFL expansion team, the Minnesota Vikings.

File:The Beatles at Metropolitan Stadium.jpg
The Met was expanded several times through the years. During the summer of 1961, the first two tiers of the triple-deck stand were extended down the first base side, just past the right field corner, increasing capacity to 30,637. For 1965, a large double-decked grandstand, paid for by the Vikings, was installed in left field. This left the Met with the unique configuration of a double deck in left field, and bleachers behind third base. The big left field stand was originally planned to be capable of sliding toward or away from the gridiron (as Denver's Mile High Stadium later would be), but that part of the project was never realized. On August 21, 1965, The Beatles played in front of 25,000 frenzied fans as part of their 1965 North American Tour. The Eagles played in front of 65,000 fans on August 1, 1978.

The park had a skeletal feel, and it was obvious that it had once been a minor league baseball stadium. Unlike most multipurpose stadiums built during this time, there were very few bad seats for baseball. It was well-known as a hitter's park; its short foul lines—343 to left, 330 to right—were particularly friendly to pull hitters such as Harmon Killebrew. The 330ft marker in right was actually closer to right-center, leading to speculation that right field was even closer.[1] Since the Met was built in 1956, however, this would not have been a problem for the Twins; baseball required all parks built after 1958 to have foul lines of at least 325ft.

It also provided an overwhelming home-field advantage for the Vikings late in the season and in the playoffs due to Minnesota's famously cold temperatures. The Vikings played 10 playoff games at the Met (including the 1969 NFL Championship Game), and lost only three of them.

In 1965, both the Major League All-Star Game and the World Series were played at the Met, one of the few times that coincidence has happened since the former event was inaugurated in 1933. The Vikings hosted the 1969 NFL championship game at the stadium.

The Met's fate was essentially sealed when, as part of the AFL-NFL Merger, the NFL declared that stadiums smaller than 50,000 were inadequate for its needs; the Met only seated 48,700 for football. However, the Vikings would not even consider playing at the University of Minnesota's Memorial Stadium, and demanded a brand-new stadium as a condition of staying in town. Since football-only stadiums were not seen as viable at the time, the Twins decided not to renew their lease at the Met after the 1981 season (though they themselves began complaining about having to deal with extremely cold weather for early- and late-season games). This accelerated the push for construction of a new stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was completed in 1981.

However, it is very likely that a new stadium would have been needed in any event, as the Met was not well maintained. There were many broken railings in the third deck by the late 1970s; by the park's final season they had become a major safety hazard.[2]

File:Metropolitan Stadium Abandoned.jpg

The Minnesota Kicks' last regular season game at Met Stadium was a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Tornado on August 19, 1981. The team's last game at the Met was a 1-0 shoot out play off victory against the Tulsa Roughnecks on August 26, 1981. The team's last game played was a home playoff loss 3-0 to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on September 6, 1981. The game was moved to the University of Minnesota's Memorial Stadium due to a schedule conflict with the Twins. The Twins played their last game at the Met on September 30, 1981, losing to Kansas City 5-2 on a rainy afternoon. Finishing the trifecta, the Vikings played their last game on December 20, 1981, dropping a 10-6 decision to the Kansas City Chiefs, the same team that topped the Vikings in Super Bowl IV, and only 7 hours away from the Twin Cities on Interstate 35 (the teams met in the Metrodome exactly 22 years later). Met Stadium was officially abandoned when the Vikings and the Twins moved to the Metrodome in January 1982 and the Kicks folded after the 1981 soccer season. For the next three years, Met Stadium sat there being unused, decaying and highly vandalized. Demolition kickoff for Metropolitan Stadium started on January 28, 1985 and continued for the next four months. After the rubble was cleared, the lot sat vacant for several years, although the nearby Met Center, which had opened in 1967 just north of the Met, continued to provide entertainment for hockey fans.

After the MetEdit

File:MOA Killebrew chair1.JPG
File:MOA Killebrew chair2.JPG
File:Metstadium-homeplate.jpg

The Mall of America, which opened in 1992, stands on the site of what is now nostalgically called "the Old Met." A brass plaque in the shape of home plate, embedded in the floor in the northwest corner of Nickelodeon Universe, commemorates the site's days as a sports venue by marking where home plate once sat. Near the opposite corner, mounted high on the wall, is a red stadium chair denoting the precise landing spot (including elevation) of Harmon Killebrew's 520ft home run, a blast to the upper deck in deep left-center field on June 3, 1967. This was the longest homer Killebrew ever hit, and the longest ever hit in Metropolitan Stadium. Unlike the chair at the Mall, the Met's outfield seating featured green bleacher-style benches.

The old flagpole at the stadium was purchased by the local American Legion post when the stadium was razed. The pole was sold back to the Twins and restored in 2010; it was then placed in the plaza at Target Field.

QuoteEdit

"There is not a finer facility in all of minor league baseball, and not two better in the Majors." - Calvin Griffith, 1959.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Smith, Curt (2001). Storied Stadiums. New York City: Carroll & Graf. Template:Citation/identifier. 
  2. Lowry, Phillip (2005). Green Cathedrals. New York City: Walker & Company. Template:Citation/identifier. 

External linksEdit

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