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Here's how Target Field becomes a football stadium

Grounds crew paint football lines and numbers on the grass at Target Field in Minneapolis on Wednesday, Sept. 20, in preparation for this Saturday's St. Thomas vs. Saint John's football game. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

MINNEAPOLIS—The Twins were given a potential layout for a football field from the architect of Target Field when the stadium was constructed in 2010.

"But we just kind of sat on that for seven years and waited," said Larry DiVito, the Twins' head groundskeeper.

The wait is over. DiVito and his crew have spent this week morphing a baseball field into a gridiron as Target Field gets set to host the 87th edition of the Tommies-Johnnies game, which will be the first football game in the stadium's history.

DiVito said the stadium essentially will be ready to go by Friday, Sept. 22, with only the sidelines and a few security perimeter details added on Saturday morning. Kickoff between host St. Thomas and visiting St. John's, two of the best Division III programs in the country, is at 1:10 p.m. Saturday.

Looking ahead to 2019, North Dakota State University will host Butler University at Target Field in the Bison’s season opener.

The stadium’s seating capacity is 38,871.

Here's how it all came together:

The field

The crew used a laser and a GPS to chart the coordinates of the field when laying it out. The field runs from home plate to left field, parallel with the left-field foul line, roughly nine feet further into the field than the foul line. One end zone ends about five feet short of the left-field wall, while the other zone ends a few yards away from the first-base dugout. Using stencils, the field lines and St. Thomas shield were painted in by the crew on Wednesday. DiVito said the painting process took 7-8 hours.

Dirt stays

While initial renderings of the Target Field football field featured all grass, the dirt infield will still be present, visible and part of the football field Saturday, as is the case when the NFL Raiders play their home games at the Oakland Coliseum during the Athletics' MLB season (the two teams share the field).

Ditch the mound

You can play a football game on dirt, but you can't play it with a 10-inch hump planted in the middle of the field. So the grounds crew spent two days removing the pitcher's mound from the field this week, using a mini excavator to remove the dirt, then manually leveling the clay and manicuring the edges before putting new sod on top of where the mound normally stands. DiVito said this was the most laborious part of the transition.

Goalposts

Traditionally, goalposts are dug into the ground. But the Twins have a heating system roughly nine inches below the surface level of the field, so they had to buy posts that could be supported by a heavy metal plate.

Walls

The proximity of the back of the end zones to the walls seems like a concern, but DiVito thinks the players will be safe. Padding will be added along the first-base dugout that is the same thickness and consistency as the padding that covers the outfield wall. "These are as good of wall pads as you'll find anywhere," DiVito said. "(The football players) are safe. Our (Twins) players run into them full speed with no helmet or pads on, so I think the guys will be OK."

Back to baseball

When Saturday's game is complete, DiVito and Co. will get back to work, making sure the field is back to baseball form in time for the Twins' next home game against Detroit on Friday, Sept. 29. DiVito said it will take three days to re-install the mound—two days to create it and one day to "fine-tune the slope." He also ordered a little extra sod to fix any potential imperfections on the field caused by the football game. "We've got time to do what we need to do," DiVito said.

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