Dave St. Peter (President of the Minnesota Twins) Interview
I have an excessive amount of contact cards. The site I bought them from was having a huge sale, so I maybe went a little overboard and got myself enough to last me 30 years. (Seriously, if you ever see me in person, just ask me for one even if you know me.) A result of having so many contact cards is I use any chance I can get to get rid of them. During Twinsfest, that meant leaving them everywhere and probably driving some Target Field janitor insane. But I also gave them out to some of the people related with the team (3 in total) in hopes that they would get back to me and it would result in me interviewing them for this blog. Now while Mr. St. Peter actually didn’t take my card, he was them only one to this point who has gotten back to me. The result of talking to him and his assistant was I was able to take a half-hour off of my internship with Minnesota United FC and interview him via phone. Here’s how it went:
Mateo Fischer: What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of the Twins having the market that they have where they are essentially THE team for a tri-state area with a strong presence in others but with none of those having a particularly dense population?
Dave St. Peter: Well…you know I think that’s always been the reality for the Twins. We’re very much a regional team. I think we embrace that. We, you know, are very cognizant of the geographic area, which is rather larger, but we also recognize that there’s a significant part of that geographic area that’s more rural in nature. And thus is less densely populated. This is not a small market overall. We play in the 15th largest television market in the country because of the Minneapolis-St. Paul DMA. That makes it more of a mid-sized market, and we understand that part of our market is our region, but we don’t approach it as if we are a small-market team. We approach it as though we are a middle-market franchise, and so that’s more of the filter by which we make business decisions.
MF: How difficult is it to line up concerts at Target Field with the Twins season being in the summer when an outdoor concert makes most sense and having a ton of competition for artists bookings with all of the concert venues in Minneapolis including even your next-door neighbor, the Target Center?
DSP: Well certainly our primary focus here at Target Field is playing baseball. Make no mistake. From time to time, there are going to be opportunities to look for non-baseball events. We certainly are going to be opportunistic in those opportunities, but it will never be and has never been our primary focus.
MF: Do you work together with Terry Ryan on a joint budget for the team from the money you are given to work with by Jim Pohlad or do you each have your separate budget that is individual to your own facet of the team?
DSP: We have a single budget as a business. Ultimately I am responsible for that budget as the President of the baseball team, reporting to Jim Pohlad. As a part of that single budget there are line items devoted to, obviously, expenses for all of the various departments within the Twins organization. Obviously the biggest of those and the highest profile budget is that which Terry Ryan manages for us in term of the baseball budget. That includes Major League payroll. That includes a budget for international and domestic draft or signings; amateur talent. It includes minor league operations, etc.
MF: So does Terry have to run that budget by you?
DSP: As long as Terry stays within the budget, we have hired good baseball people that are hopefully going to make good baseball decisions. So it’s a highly collaborative process because of the people we have in place. Terry certainly has a high level of communication with me on baseball-related matters just as I have a high level of communication with him on business-related matters. But at the end of the day, Terry is responsible for managing the baseball part of the budget. And if his decision extend to multi-year contracts and certainly get to a level of long-term commitment, more than likely those types of contracts will stimulate an incremental level of discussion with myself and the owner of the baseball team.
MF: What was the main concern of the front office when thinking of Target Field as a concept? For example, upon its completion, it was the greenest ballpark in the majors, but would you say that was emphasized more than, say, concession accessibility?
DSP: I would say that all-together was our focus, but it was mainly the game day experience. You know for twenty-eight years, we played in the corner of a football stadium at the Metrodome, where we had some very good teams, but it was not a great place to play baseball. So the number one focus when coming to Target Field was all about just that: the ability to present the game the way it was meant to be presented. So elements around the game such as accessibility, greening, the urban footprint, transit, and all of those things were important, but were only one part of the puzzle when looking at the game day experience.
MF: Now besides Target Field, what is your favorite stadium in baseball to have visited and for what reasons?
DSP: It’s hard to compete with Fenway Park and Wrigley Field because of the history, and their beauty and intimacy. Of the new stadiums, for me, it would still be Camden Yards because of the setting. If there were one on the West Coast that comes to mind, it would be AT&T Park in San Francisco, because of the setting.
MF: Based on the feedback you received about Twinsfest 2014, what are some areas you look to improve on in 2015 if any?
DSP: Too early to tell. We’re still studying the results of this year’s Twinsfest, looking to get a better idea of what did and did not work. I’d rather not go into specifics here today, but we do think there are ways we can improve. I’m pretty optimistic there are ways we can improve going forward.
MF: Because it was a venue you owned and not the Vikings’, did you save any money in operations cost that was then able to add to the amount of money donated to the Twins community fund?
DSP: Yes and no. It swings both ways. There are actually ways where it was more expensive to hold here at Target Field that it would’ve been at the Metrodome.
MF: Regarding the Twins community fund, most stadiums have a strikeout counter that determines the amount of money donated to a charity. Why was it that the Twins decided to go the route of Strikeout ALS?
DSP: We have a long history, unfortunately, with that organization that dates back to Kent Hrbek and his father passing away from ALS. So we’ve had a long relationship of fundraising for them. Minnesota Air Carrier is a longstanding corporate partner of the Twins and also a longstanding partner of ALS organizations, so we tied those two things together.
MF: Since you grew up there and went to UND, were there any minute cultural differences you had to pick up coming to Minnesota from North Dakota, or are they pretty similar?
DSP: No. People in this part of the region are very similar. There is perhaps a difference between the urban people who grew up in Minneapolis or St. Paul, which might change things compared to rural out-of-Minnesota, or North Dakotans, but I think that people come from the same place in terms of values, and in terms of hardiness, and in terms of dealing with four seasons. In the end, we find a lot in common between Twins fans whether they come from Minnesota, North or South Dakota, Western Wisconsin, or Northern Iowa.
MF: Twinsfest is a truly unique experience with it being three days of fanfest. Would you say that there is anything else that makes Twinsfest unique?
DSP: Just the number of players available. There’s not another team in the game that is going to deliver as many players to their home market during the offseason like we do during Twinsfest. That’s the biggest thing we do that is unique to Twinsfest.