The Minneapolis City Council signed off on the $97 million dollar upgrade to the Target Center this morning, a year and a half after the deal was initially struck with the Timberwolves and Lynx.
"A lot of good pragmatic work has gone into it. People were a little nervous that this thing took a while to get done. It took a while in part because we were trying to drive a bargain that was good," said mayor R.T. Rybak.
The deal calls for the city to put in about $50 million into the project. The rest would come from the Timberwolves, the Lynx and arena manager AEG.
The deal permits hospitality taxes to substitute for long-running subsidies from the city's property taxpayers.
But the vote still wasn't without controversy. City Council member Diane Hofstede, who was defeated in last week's election, said that the deal wouldn't have been possible without the hard-fought vote to approve a $150 million city contribution to the new Vikings stadium.
That deal included specific language that Minneapolis officials said gave them clear authority to use hospitality taxes to fix up Target Center.
"Without that decision, this decision would not be possible... And I think as elected officials, it is important that when we make commitments, we acknowledge them and keep them, and that we take the risks to be able to move them forward," Hofstede said.
Risks, presumably, that included losing her Ward 3 seat to challenger Jacob Frey. He made reference to Hofstede's support of the Viking stadium deal during the election campaign, although it wasn't a highlight of the race.
Hofstede's remarks brought a rebuke from Vikings stadium opponent and council member Lisa Goodman.
"This was possible. It just wasn't politically possible," Goodman said. "For those of us who voted against the Vikings stadium on both principal with regard to the charter amendment and because we felt this wasn't a good deal. This was a sweetener, and an enhancer. That is true. But we've always had the ability to invest in the Target Center, even to this amount."
Nonetheless, the deal won a 10-0 vote among the council members at today's meeting, just weeks before the council that approved the Vikings deal is due to be replaced. (See how they fared in last week's elections here.)
Timberwolves spokesman Ted Johnson said that a committee of three tenants and three city representatives would start work on soliciting design and construction bids this winter.
"We would anticipate really starting to swing hammers at the end of the Timberwolves season, the end of the 2013-14 season," Johnson said. "The intent is to keep the building open and functioning year round. We've understand there may be windows that we may have to shut it down to do some specific items. But really our hope and intent is to keep the building running throughout the entire renovation. That's why we've been working with an 18 to 24 month window for the renovation, because its anticipating that we won't shut it down for like four months at a time."