I’m sure you’ve heard it, the clever broadcast ads being run to help ramp up excitement for the St. Paul Saints’ final season in their beloved – and beaten up – Midway Stadium. Last week, upon hearing the commercial for the tenth time, the thought of buzzed tailgating and great people watching was enough to help me commit to the $8 cheap seats.
I will admit that my heart is still aching after the Wild’s season end, but something about the atmosphere and laid-back fun provided by a Saints game was something I could be excited about. Yes, the Midway is kind of a dump — and yes, sometimes the baseball is a little less than stellar. But the draw of cheap tickets, a change of pace and the selection of craft beers could help fill the void of Wild hockey.
All week I was dreaming about wearing shorts and sipping on a Fulton… little did I know, the temperature for the opener would be about 45 degrees. So, instead of tailgating and enjoying sunshine, I ate cold leftover pizza at home beforehand and wore several layers of clothing. But as always, the Midway was fun enough to make up for weather.
I always get a kick of the collection of people at the games, which provide prime people watching if the three hour baseball game leaves you bored. Luckily for us, the opener itself was quite exciting — so the mid-game entertainment was a bonus. There is something wonderful about the simplicity of watching drunk men push a tire around the field as part of a between-inning race. This is what I will miss about the Midway. For me, the experience of going to one of these games has never been about the venue; the crowd enthusiasm and overall antics make it easy to look past the Midway’s dysfunction.
At the close of the season, the franchise is saying goodbye to the industrial area of St. Paul near the State Fair Grounds and saying hello to a brand new $63 million stadium in Lowertown. The venue is set to open just in time for next year’s home opener in May 2015 and will feature a whopping 7,000 seats.
As I was watching the game last week, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic about my beer soaked tailgating days at the Midway — but all good things must come to an end. And in much the same way that Minnesotans felt a heavy heart watching the Twins play their final game in the Metrodome, none of us are particularly sad walking into Target Field. I’m assuming it will be similar in the Saints’ case.
The new stadium will be a great step for the franchise and a marker of the two decades of success they’ve had. I would suggest that beer drinkers and baseball fans alike enjoy one last go around at the Midway before it closes its doors. Of course some traditions will end as the team makes their move, but it will be up to the fans to keep the Midway legacy alive.
Images via: Alyssa Hollenback — St. Paul Saints