Column: Sports facilities in Twin Cities are some of the best

Published 10:18am Thursday, May 30, 2013

In the two years prior to moving to Nashville last spring, I attended countless high school, collegiate and professional sporting events.

I sat matside and watched Minnesota’s top high school wrestlers compete for state championships, at midcourt as Carlie Wagner set state single-game and three-game state tournament records (ones she’s since surpassed) and on the baseline as Ricky Rubio flicked dazzling passes to Kevin Love at the Target Center.

I absorbed so much live sports during that time that my needs as a lifelong and diehard fan were saturated. Two years later, I’m all dried up.

It’s not the Tennessee heat that’s sucked fandom from me. It’s the lack of opportunity.

I took for granted, as I can assume many Minnesotans do, the richness of sports all across the state. Minneapolis-St.Paul is one of only 12 metropolitan areas in the country represented in all four major sports leagues. It’s home to Big Ten athletics, and if you’re not a fan of loud arenas, you can catch lacrosse, soccer or roller derby (of which the Twin Cities has three different teams).

I attended more sporting events on a Tuesday night while at the Tribune than I have in 14 months in Music City, but I haven’t abandoned them on purpose, of course. When you’re paid to be somewhere besides the ballpark it’s hard to find time to make it there.

To be fair, Nashville is no slouch as a sports market. We have the Titans, Predators and, Vanderbilt Commodores, whose football team is a top 25-ranked SEC program and basketball program is a year removed from a conference tournament championship. But the fan experience just can’t compete with that of the Twin Cities.

Nashville’s two professional sports venues (LP Field and Bridgestone Arena) are middle-aged, and the Nashville Sounds (the Milwaukee Brewer’s top minor league affiliate) plays in the second-oldest AAA baseball stadium in the country. Vanderbilt’s football stadium was born a year before my 90-year-old grandfather, and its basketball arena could apply for Social Security.

Minnesota has spoiled us. Remember that.

On any day of the year, on either side of the Mississippi River, you’ll likely find a game to catch just 100 miles north on Interstate 35. Whether it’s on a summer day at sun-drenched Target Field or to escape the cold at the still-shiny Xcel Energy Center, there’s a first-class facility to settle into.

With the addition of the yet-to-be-named Vikings stadium in 2016, the Twin Cities is leading the country when it comes to fan hospitality.

The Vikings will have the newest and most impressive stadium in the NFL while Target Field will just be leaving its infancy. The X shows no signs of becoming outdated even 10 years after ESPN named it the best overall sports venue in the U.S., and if the play on the field ever lives up to the beauty surrounding it, TCF Bank Stadium could become an icon on the University of Minnesota’s campus.

Throw in the new Gophers’ and under-construction St. Paul Saints’ baseball stadiums and the proposed $100 million renovation of the Target Center, and you’ll be far-fetched to find a better set of digs.

So dig it and be sure to wave. I’ll be watching from a cozy stool at Sam’s Sports Bar.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears each Thursday in the Tribune.