For the first time in its 31-year history, the Big Ten baseball tournament will be held at a Major League Baseball facility.
Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis, will host the 2013 Big Ten baseball tournament, the conference announced this month.
“I think it is a great opportunity to showcase Big Ten baseball in a major league facility. ... It’s going to impact our league and our recruiting,” Gophers head baseball coach John Anderson said. “I think it gives [the Big Ten] more credibility.”
The Gophers have a history with Target Field, which opened in 2010. Decrepit conditions at the current Siebert Field have left the Gophers playing most of their games away at the Metrodome, and when that is unusable, Target Field.
In March 2010, Minnesota played its first-ever game at the Twins’ home. In 2011, as the Metrodome roof was being restructured from a snow cave-in, the Gophers played 12 conference games there.
Anderson, who has coached the Gophers for 31 seasons and recently signed a five-year contract extension, said the Twins’ generosity “speaks volumes” about the organization and its priorities.
“The whole organization is really committed to fostering and growing the game and helping amateur baseball thrive,” Anderson said.
The Twins’ owners, the Pohlad family, donated $2 million last spring toward construction for the Gophers’ new Siebert Field, which the University’s Board of Regents will vote on June 7-8. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new field is planned for June 11.
However, the primarily privately funded $7.5 million for a new Siebert Field isn’t enough to start hosting Big Ten baseball tournaments on campus, Anderson said.
“It’s going to be a basic, functional facility that we can use to play and practice in,” Anderson said. “Right now, there’s not enough dollars to put lights in the facility.”
Anderson said the new Siebert Field would need extra amenities like lights and extra seating to make the facility ready to host an NCAA tournament like the Big Ten championships. Anderson said the financial difficulties are due in part to the goal of privately funding the stadium, which he said is uncommon at the University.
The University has only contributed $1.2 million to the project, Anderson said.
“We’re probably going to have to raise another $7.5 million to get the facility to the point where we can host an NCAA championship,” Anderson said.
The additional $7.5 million would raise the overall cost for a new Siebert Field to $15 million.
This year’s Big Ten champion, Purdue, approved plans in 2010 for a new, $21 million baseball stadium that will be complete in time for the 2012 season.
A return to Minnesota
Billy Soule, president of the Gophers baseball booster club, said the University of Minnesota runs tournaments better than anyone else in the Big Ten and that the 2013 tournament at Target Field will be no exception.
“On top of that, you’ve got Target Field, which has a great history of taking care of [Gophers baseball] when we’ve needed it,” Soule said.
Since 2009, the tournament has been played at a neutral site in Columbus, Ohio. Next year’s tournament at Target Field will be the first neutral site designated by the Big Ten outside of Columbus. Prior to 2009, the regular-season champion hosted the tournament.
Minnesota hasn’t hosted a Big Ten baseball tournament since 2004, but next year’s will be the seventh it has hosted in its 31-year tournament history. Five different teams have won it, and Minnesota leads all Big Ten teams with nine tournament titles — winning most recently in 2010.
Dario Anselmo, president of the Warehouse District Business Association in downtown Minneapolis, said he hopes for an influx of out-of-state Big Ten baseball fans to supplement business in the area.
“Hopefully it’ll be a nice introduction for out-of-town people to see what nice neighborhoods are around, businesses and how easy parking and transportation can be,” Anselmo said. “The neighborhoods have dealt with Gopher-related activities before, and it is expected to go well.”
Soule said Big Ten baseball fans travel as much as any conference’s fans. With Target Field’s history of drawing more Gophers fans to games and its professional atmosphere, Soule said the tournament will be brought to a “new level.”
“A lot of people want to see it — it’s a destination,” Soule said. “With Minneapolis being the hub, it’s pretty easy for people to get here.”
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