Twins expand Target Field's no-smoking radius

Published Apr. 9, 2012 8:37 p.m. ET

MINNEAPOLIS — Smoking has not been permitted inside Target Field since it opened in 2010. But now, those who wish to smoke at Twins games will have to leave the cigarettes at home or leave the ballpark altogether.

For the first time in its three-year history, Target Field will not offer a special section for smokers during Twins games this season. Previously there was an area outside Gate 6 near the left field corner of the park where fans could smoke and then re-enter the game.

Not anymore, as the Twins are aiming to eliminate any second-hand smoke from entering Target Field, which legally is labeled a smoke-free facility.

"That's the state law that in the first couple years, we tried to kind of bring over that corral situation like we did at the Metrodome," said Kevin Smith, the Twins' executive director of public affairs. "What was different here from there was at the Dome, you can send people outside in those corrals and shut the door. There's no door to shut here.

"So on certain nights, like today with the wind to the northwest, all that secondhand smoke blows right back into the main concourse all the way up to the terrace level, and that becomes an issue for our fans, an issue for our employees that have to work in that environment."

That designated area no longer exists. Smoking is also not allowed on Target Plaza, which extends from the gate in right field all the way to Target Center across the street.

"Earlier in the year, the ballpark authority that owns the building on behalf of the public, said, 'Look, can you reevaluate that whole plan and see if you can figure something out?'" Smith said. "So we did, and we decided some people aren't going to be happy, but the law's the law, and we're going to abide by the letter of the law. So we're a smoke-free facility, totally."

Like many other parks, fans who leave Target Field during a game aren't allowed back into the stadium. Smith wasn't sure how many other parks in baseball are like Target Field in that they offer no designated smoking areas for fans, but he expects others to join the trend.

"Minnesota as a state led the way in kind of the smoke-free thing," Smith said. "I think you'll see other ballparks go more like we are, which is all or nothing. I can't tell you how many exactly."

Despite the smoke-free label, smokeless tobacco is still allowed for players and fans alike at Target Field — although the players' new collective bargaining agreement limits how they can use chewing tobacco. Tobacco tins can't be visible in back pockets anymore, Smith said, and players can't chew tobacco during TV interviews.

"Once the fans get into the stadium and the players are visible, it can't be near that," Smith said. "So pretty much it can't be seen at all. . . . There's so many restrictions."

Some opposing managers, such as former White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen and current Tigers manager Jim Leyland, would light up a cigarette during pre- and post-game sessions with the media in their clubhouse offices.

Guillen is now with the Miami Marlins and won't visit Target Field this year. But what will Leyland do when Detroit comes to town?

"He'll go deeper back in the cage, I don't know," Smith joked.

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