Interview with Bruce Miller, principal architect for the new Twins Ballpark

In recent days, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with theprincipal architect for the new Twins Ballpark, Mr. Bruce Miller of HOK Sport. Mr. Miller has been with Kansas City-based HOK for 19 years, and the firm is responsible for the design of 14 new professional ballpark including Oriole Park in Baltimore, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and AT&T Park in San Francisco. Here is a portion of our conversation:

Interview with Bruce Miller, principal architect for the new Twins Ballpark

The future is now

Judd Spicer: What is specifically unique about the Twins project in comparison to other parks that you’ve worked on?

Bruce Miller: I think the site, primarily, makes it a very challenging and unique project. We’re calling it the most urban project we’ve done. It is as close, or closer, to the core business district of an urban center as any project we’ve ever done of this scale. It has multiple ways of getting there through the transit system. The bike trail goes under the ballpark, I-394 is close to the outer wall, the 3rd Avenue distributor ramps are adjacent to the ballpark, the Northstar commuter rail line actually comes physically into the park -- the station for that. And that connects to the Light Rail Line. All of those transportation systems really center around the ballpark, allowing fans a great accessibility to this big facility right near downtown.

JS: Where are we at in the process for the next few months? What are a few things happening right now? BM: On-site, they’re pouring a lot of concrete. The C.M. will tell you he was pouring concrete yesterday, he’s pouring concrete today, and he’ll be pouring concrete tomorrow. There’s a of concrete going in this summer. Parallel to that will be a lot of the mechanical and electrical systems for the building. Block work is ongoing. Towards the end of summer we’ll start seeing structural steel on the upper-levels going in.

JS: Are things happening according to your timeline?

BM: We are on time. On the design side, we’re in the final stages of selecting all the materials. There’s a mock-up wall, it’s actually a very large sample wall of the exterior skin of the building. The actual stone for the building is mocked up there, and we’ve got all the various materials in that wall so that we can really see what those final material selections will look like as they go up in the final building.

JS: What improvisation, if any, has been required thus far? Have there been any unexpected hurdles?

BM: There’s been a few unforeseen conditions in terms of utilities -- you know, it’s a very old site. You really don’t know what’s under the ground until you start digging it up. We’ve found utilities in unexpected locations. There was a foundation wall that was very sizeable that we didn’t expect to find. Other than that, I would say things are going fairly well -- as expected.

JS: What’s one thing that Twin Cities residents may not realize about this project? Or something involved with the stadium that won’t make headlines?

BM: It hasn’t been in the newspapers for quite some time, but the soil on the project is not very strong. So, what you see above ground is supported by an equal structure below ground. There are nearly three thousand piles on the job that they been driving since last summer. So those piles actually go through the soil to a rock layer and support the building. So it’s not like pouring your backyard patio, where you can just tamp the ground down and pour on grades. These piles actually support all the slabs and all of the columns in the ballpark, so if you were just driving by you would never know that all that structure exists below.

JS: I love the EarthCam on the Twins website, offering live views of construction progress every 15-minutes. Do you ever check in to see if your guys are taking three-hour cig breaks? BM: No, I haven’t done that. Although I’ve done it in reverse where I was dressed in a coat and dress pants and standing out on the deck as they were getting ready to pour a column, and somebody called me from K.C. and said, “Is that you on the deck?” And I said, “Yeah, it’s me.” So I waved, although I don’t think they could quite catch it.

JS: Do you have to be a baseball fan to be good at this job? BM: I don’t think you have to, but that’s certainly where my passion comes from. I’m a sports fan. And it’s a marriage of two passions in my life: architecture and sports.

JS: What’s your favorite ballpark? Why?

BM: I think it’s gonna be the Twins ballpark. Again, I think it’s such a unique project and I’m really pleased with our design effort. And we’re trying hard to make sure that design gets built for the fans of Minnesota. I think it’s a great project.

For continued updates, I'd recommend visiting the ballpark page on the Twins site, which offers articles, updates from Twins President Dave St. Peter, and also a 3D Tour.

UPDATE: As was reckoned in this space earlier in the week, the Twins cut ties with Juan Rincon Thursday. Brian Buscher was brought up in his place. Rincon has 72 hours to accept or decline an assignment to AAA Rochester. Accordingly to Kelly Thesier, who covers the Twins for, "Rincon told on Wednesday that if his situation came to that, he would refuse the [minor league] assignment and become a free agent." It has been readily rumored that the club was trying to trade the maligned reliever, but it appears there were no takers. Now that Rincon has passed through waivers, look for him to sign on elsewhere.

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