Metrodome represents good in city It's big, clean, busy, just like Minneapolis

October 20, 1991|By Steve Jacobson | Steve Jacobson,Newsday

MINNEAPOLIS -- Build it, the small voice told them, and they will come. So they built it, and they have come.

They called it the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which gave rise across the street to a hamburger joint named Hubert's, and a whole lot of other points of interest in this city. So many people thought the Metrodome was a tumor on the city when it was opened in 1982; not many do now.

It's big and clean and busy, which is a mirror of Minneapolis. The TV station in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was based here. The house Mary Richards lived in is 1410 Mt. Curve Ave., just down the street from the original Pillsbury mansion.

You couldn't exactly credit the Metrodome for everything good about Minneapolis, because it's been a living city for some time. Since 1929 the Foshay Tower, right here, had been the tallest structure between Chicago and San Francisco at 29 stories. Now the skyline is such that you can't find the Foshay Tower for the likes of IDS at the equivalent of 57 stories, Norwest Bank, four feet shorter, and a thicket of 40s and 30s. They're linked by 19 miles of skyway providing covered passage from building to building, store to store, shopping center to shopping center, hotel to hotel, which is a nice thing for business when the snow blows.

So is the Metrodome. High temperature expected outside last night was in the low 40s, which isn't World Series weather, and 70 degrees inside, which is.

Besides the World Series, which hardly is something that can be planned, the dome will be site of the Super Bowl in January and the Final Four in March. If the World Series returns for Games 6 and 7, headquarters will be shifted to suburban Bloomington, roughly between Minneapolis and St. Paul, where the old ballpark was, because the Eckancar religious convention long ago booked 2,500 rooms. "Without the dome, we wouldn't get any of this," said Kevin Lewis of the Convention & Visitors Association.

Having 2,293,842 fans going in and out of a downtown stadium in baseball season -- 3,030,672 in 1988 -- does things for downtown. "When I was a teen-ager, I came downtown maybe twice in my life," said Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek, who grew up in Bloomington, while the Twins were playing in Metropolitan Stadium.

"People worked here and went home. There was nothing down here to do. Now the only thing you can't do in Minneapolis is surf."

Almost. There are five lakes big enough for swimming within the city. Lakeshore homes with all the trees and lawns of suburbia are 15 minutes from the tall buildings and the dome.

"Baseball should be played outdoors," said David Wee, who teaches a course called "Baseball and American Values" at St. Olaf College in Northfield, an hour's drive away. "But without the dome, the Twins would be in Denver or Orlando by now." For people driving from South Dakota or Idaho, it was too cold and too wet too much of the time.

The inflated dome makes a significant statement in a city that has made marvelous restoration of the old while building the new. And has no visible graffiti.

The old Warehouse District is full of cafes and bars and condos. So is the riverside area of old St. Anthony, the original settlement. The abandoned railroad freight yards and warehouses were restored as townhouses.

Folk humorist Garrison Keillor said, "Minneapolis is Wonder bread; St. Paul is whole wheat." Actually, today Minneapolis is more like white toast.

It does have its touch of scandal. Just last fall a gubernatorial candidate -- Jon Grunseth -- was accused of joining a skinny dip of teen-age girls with his stepdaughter in the family pool. He denies it; some of the girls confirm it. Now Grunseth has accused the current governor, Arne Carlson, a hasty replacement after Grunseth withdrew and whom Grunseth defeated in the primary, of leaking the story to the media.

The river, by the way, is the Mississippi. It gave rise to the trivia question of which was the first World Series played entirely west of the Mississippi: 1965, Los Angeles and the Twins, when they played in Bloomington.

Minneapolis is the fourth among headquarters of Fortune 500 companies. The metropolitan area's 2.4 million rank 17th among markets and Minnesota is second in life expectancy to Hawaii. "When you're frozen for nine months a year, it takes a long time to spoil," explained Owen Myer, a veteran cab driver.

Minneapolis has 17 percent minority population, low for an urban area. The city does have the largest urban concentration of American Indians. A demonstration was planned for yesterday afternoon by American Indian Movement to protest the warlike stereotype of the Atlanta Braves' tomahawk chop. Their protest has some merit. They will not be protesting Minneapolis.

One of the new modern downtown high-rise apartment buildings is graced by a lovely statue of a nude woman, raising a wreath of boughs above her head. It was commissioned by Wilbur Foshay for his skyscraper in 1929 but driven undercover and out of sight by outraged public modesty. In the 1950s it reappeared in front of Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale, standing amid a constant spray of water. Charlie's is no more. It is missed. It was about Charlie's that Yogi Berra said, "Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."

Smoking, by the way, is not allowed in the Metrodome. The exception is Twins manager Tom Kelly, who pitches batting practice with a cigar between his lips. That's another Minneapolis scandal.

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