There are ballparks and there are works of art.
The new CHS Field in St. Paul's Lowertowncould qualify as both.
The stadium, which opened last year, has public art inside and out, including a gallery that exhibits work of local artists. Design details, including red cedar ceilings on the concourse, help make CHS Field more than just another minor league ballpark. And the stadium is designed to blend into its urban setting, which is a revitalized neighborhood of arts, culture and restaurants.
Much of this was intentional: Local artists were involved and consulted in every step of the design process for the stadium.
CHS Field is the home of the St. Paul Saintsof the independent American Association. The league includes teams from Winnipeg, Fargo, Sioux Falls and Sioux City in the Upper Midwest, as well as such far-flung locales as Laredo, Texas, Gary, Ind., and Joplin, Mo.
The Saints, of course, are known as much for crazy stunts and off-field entertainment as for baseball. Many of those traditions were developed as the Saints, competing in a major league marketplace, were attempting to get and hold attention while playing at their former home, Midway Stadium.
Now that they've gone uptown, or even better, Lowertown, the Saints continue the fun but also have a ballpark that will attract people who enjoy architecture, art, the nearby riverside and, by the way, baseball.
CHS Field, of course, will never equal the Twins' Target Field in terms of size or glamour. But CHS Field has charm all its own. "CHS Field can be seen as a great addition to the ballpark world," said the online Ballpark Digest.
The Saints open their regular season with a home game May 19 at CHS Field.
There was a time when Lowertown looked ready to be circled by buzzards. Now, because of CHS Field and other developments, there's a buzz about the place. Lowertown was one of the city's first manufacturing and distribution areas, but has been transformed into a hip, artsy neighborhood, with trendy bars and restaurants, loft apartments and re-purposed buildings.
Take a stroll before the ballgame, and here's what else you'll find in the vicinity of CHS Field:
— Mears Park occupies a complete city block, and is host to concerts and music festivals throughout the summer. It's also a great place to take a break and rest your feet by the side of the stream running through the park.
— The St. Paul Farmers Marketis located across Broadway Street from CHS Field. A farmers market has been held in the area since 1854 and at this particular site since 1982. Hours are 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays.
— The St. Paul Union Depotis an appropriate symbol of the revival of Lowertown. At the peak of rail travel in the 20th century, the depot served 35,000 passengers a day. Passenger service ended in the 1970s, and the depot turned into a hulk looking for a purpose. Now restored to its neoclassical 1920s grandeur, the depot is a hub for train, light rail, bus and even bicycle transportation. From here, in fact, baseball fans can catch the Green Line light rail, which connects CHS Field with Target Field in Minneapolis.