Timberwolves seek $155M to renovate Target Center

Target Center renovation
An artist's rendering of a proposed renovated Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
Image courtesy targetcenterrenovation.org

The Minnesota Timberwolves and the city of Minneapolis are teaming up on a proposal that seeks $155 million to renovate Target Center.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson unveiled the plan Tuesday afternoon.

It calls for a complete remodel of the 21-year-old building. It would shift the main entrance to the corner of 6th Street and First Avenue, add two large glass atriums and another restaurant that overlooks Target Plaza. It would also completely remodel the inside to make the building more attractive to traveling concerts and shows.

There's no specific plan to pay for it just yet. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he would help pay for the cost of the renovation, but didn't say how much.

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Taylor said he never brought up the idea of asking for a new arena.

"I just think it's prudent as a businessman, as owner of the Timberwolves, as a taxpayer, that we try to take advantage of the building that we've already built," Taylor said.

Gov. Mark Dayton set aside $8 million for improvements to Target Center in his bonding proposal, but that would only pay a small amount of the overall costs.

The Timberwolves are the latest sports franchise looking for public funds to help with their arena situation. The Twins and University of Minnesota football program already are playing in new facilities after long fights at the Capitol while the Vikings and St. Paul Saints are headed to St. Paul this session to lobby for new stadiums.

It figures to be an even tougher fight for the Wolves, whose struggles on the court over the last five to six seasons have eroded fan interest in the team.

But their plan differs from the Vikings in several aspects. They are looking only for a renovation and not a new building, which means far less public money that needs to be committed to the project.

The Wolves' 41 home games per year also account for only about 25 percent of the events in the arena on a yearly basis, with the majority of events being concerts, shows and other events like the state high school basketball tournaments.

The City of Minneapolis owns the building and AEG operates it, meaning the Wolves do not receive any revenues from events held at Target Center that are not team-related.

Finally, the Wolves have a local partner in the city that the Vikings have been searching for for years during their fight for a new football stadium.

This renovation of Target Center would make the NBA's fourth-oldest building viable for another 20 years, officials said on the website. It would add more revenue-producing club suites and change the "upside-down" configuration of the arena.

When Target Center opened in 1990, it was the last arena built with more seats on the upper level than the lower level. That configuration has become a deterrent for concert promoters who can sell lower level tickets at a higher price.

The renovation also includes a remodel of the home and visitor locker rooms, which are among the smallest in the NBA.

Perhaps more important for the future of the building, the renovation will also refurbish the concession areas, add a food court and a club overlooking the arena in addition to soaring glass atriums at the main entrance and on the back side of Target Center that overlooks Target Field.

Of the 60 arenas that are home to NBA or NHL franchises across the country, Target Center is the sixth-oldest. NBA teams in Charlotte, Miami and Orlando, all of whom entered the league after the Timberwolves, are playing in their second buildings.

(MPR's Dan Olson contributed to this report)