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Wild, Twins partnership makes Winter Classic dream a reality

Minnesota's baseball team making a significant financial investment in ballpark to make it ready for next January

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. LOUIS PARK -- From a technical standpoint, the Wild and Minnesota Twins are competitors in an increasingly competitive sports market. 

But once again, the two teams are choosing to go forward together in their partnership ahead of the 2021 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which will be held Jan. 1, 2021 at Target Field, home of the Twins. 

It's a stadium that was designed for use during the late spring, Minnesota's precious short summer months and, ideally, a couple of months into the fall. 

It was not designed for winter use. But all of that is about to change.

The Twins, along with owner Jim Pohlad and his family, are making a significant financial investment to winterize the stadium in order to make it a first-class hockey venue.

Video: Majka, St. Peter talk 2021 Winter Classic

"[We want to make] sure we have running water in restrooms and all the concessions areas are operating on January 1 just like they would on July 1. That's a commitment for us," said Twins president Dave St. Peter. "When we built Target Field, we built it for when the days would be less than perfect. We didn't build it for January 1, but we have more radiant heat than any ballpark in the league, we have more interior spaces than most and obviously fully winterizing the building was something that needed to happen. 

"We've certainly consulted with the National Hockey League on that and just making sure we understand the standard of what the fan experience has to be on January 1 of 2021."

That investment has not gone unnoticed by the Wild. 

"Dave, the Pohlads and the Twins organization have been outstanding in terms of their commitment to winterize Target Field," said Wild president and Alternate Governor Matt Majka. "There was a significant expense in work that is underway and I want to give Dave and the team full credit for stepping up to make this an event that can come off in the middle of cold temperatures."

The partnership between the Twins and Wild is not new, nor is the desire of both franchises to bring the NHL's signature regular season event to the Twin Cities. 

The Wild hosted a Stadium Series game in 2016 at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, primarily because it wanted to save Target Field for when it would one day be awarded a Winter Classic.

"From a Twins perspective, we've wanted to host hockey for a long time. We've studied it. Our groundskeeper, Larry DeVito, has been at multiple outdoor hockey games, he just last week was in Dallas ... so we think we're ready for that," St. Peter said. "It's a lot of work, but most importantly, we know we're gonna put down great ice, and we also know that we're gonna be ready for baseball come the spring of 2021."

For years, the Wild has angled for the event. First, the NHL wanted the team to become a consistent playoff contender. Then it wanted it to acquire some star power. 

While Minnesota has been desperate to host the event, perhaps it's fitting that the League made the Wild wait; the event will now take place in the midst of the franchise's 20th season in the NHL.  

Video: Bruce Boudreau on 2021 Winter Classic in Minnesota

"Our market is deserving of it, our fans are deserving and our partners are thrilled to finally be able to say those words out loud," Majka said. "We've been lobbying the NHL for a long time for this marquee game, the biggest game in the NHL annually. They've always said that this market is deserving and our fans are deserving. 

"We have been surprised at how long it took to come to the State of Hockey, but all that is behind us now and we're thrilled to do this and our market is too based on the initial reaction. We're gonna have a heck of a party on January 1 of 2021.

"It was our turn and we're thrilled to be here."

Majka and St. Peter spoke to assembled media outside during the Wild's outdoor practice Thursday at the St. Louis Park Recreation Center. 

The timing of the open-air practice couldn't have been more appropriate, considering the landmark announcement made just one day earlier. 

One day down, only 364 more to go until hockey is played in Minnesota's baseball stadium. 

"We all know because most of us live here, just what an incredible venue Target Field is, just the intimacy of it and the great premium spaces, so many of those," Majka said. "This is going to be an outstanding setting for a Winter Classic game and we're so happy that Dave and the Pohlads stepped up the way they did. We're really grateful to them. It's going to be outstanding."


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