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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 13 2010

Kolpack: Target's green grass courtesy of ’91 NDSU graduate


The 65-degree first pitch weather – with light winds at about 10 mph – was practically ideal for mid-April, so Richard McDonald’s cutting edge design work in field systems wasn’t needed at Target Field on Monday afternoon. But you can thank him later – the day you have tickets and there’s a summer morning downpour in eastern Minnesota.

While the stadium structure and amenities were getting rave reviews in the Twins’ 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox, the 1991 North Dakota State graduate was responsible for all the green grass between the lines.

And it had more deep, colorful greens than a UND-NDSU football game.

In early April.

It’s the product of McDonald’s Sports Design Firm based in McKinney, Texas, which was contracted to design and build the field and all that lies underneath it. That includes a vertical draining system that can handle six to nine inches of rain per hour.

“That means if it does rain, water will immediately disappear,” McDonald said.

It also means snow can immediately disappear, thanks to heated coils embedded in the soil. It’s not a new concept – most northern stadiums like Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, Denver’s Coors Field and Seattle’s Safeco Field use it.

Around late February or early March, a large boiler system underneath the Target Field stands cranks the soil to about 55 degrees, a process meant to force the grass out of dormancy earlier than usual. So while grass on lawns in Minnesota or North Dakota are still winter wheat brown, Target Field on Monday was a summer green.

“It’s like living in a black and white TV world and all of a sudden you walk out there and it’s green,” McDonald said. “Baseball should be played in grass, especially in Minnesota.”

In Green Bay, the heating system keeps the Packers playing on a green field in November and December when the rest of Wisconsin has dormant grass.

It’s not unlike coils in flooring systems. Former Fargo Legion baseball coach Bill Ibach, who has taken care of many fields in his day, could only have wished for such a system.

“It just looks great,” he said, from his seat behind home plate. “Just to walk on the field .. it kind of reminds me of Coors Field.”

In all, the stadium received outstanding reviews all day. Longtime Twin Cities’ residents – so used to inside pro baseball at the Metrodome – questioned what city they were in, evidently not caring about concession prices that require a short term loan.

“It’s amazing,” said Rob Berrell, director of sales at CBS Radio in Minneapolis and a 1983 Fargo South graduate. “They’ve been doing a countdown for a year now to day and it’s just been building, building, building. The people are just jacked up. Today is the big day.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546