Target Center to get remodeled

Published 4:40 am Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — One of the oldest buildings in the NBA is about to embark on a much-needed, and long-negotiated, face-lift.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and the City of Minneapolis announced on Monday that a preliminary agreement has been reached for a $97 million renovation plan for Target Center. The plan will redesign the outdated exterior, improve amenities in the arena and spruce things up for the players behind the scenes as well at the 23-year-old arena.

The plan is scheduled to be voted on for approval by the City Council on Nov. 12. The Timberwolves will pay $43 million toward the project, Minneapolis will contribute $48.5 million and building manager AEG will pay $5.5 million. As part of the deal, the Timberwolves will extend their lease at Target Center through 2032, strengthening the franchise’s long-term future in the Twin Cities.

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“Yes, I would have liked a new facility,” Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said. “But I’m a Minnesotan. I served in the legislature. I know about taxes because I pay a lot of them. And I thought about what would be the most common sense (approach).”

With taxpayers helping to pay for new stadiums for the Vikings, Twins and University of Minnesota football team in the last decade or so, the Timberwolves knew there was little patience and even less financial flexibility to get a new arena of their own. So they set out to devise a plan to update Target Center and make it viable and competitive across an NBA landscape that has seen shimmering new arenas sprout up across the league in recent seasons.

Talks first began on a sweeping new $150 million plan for Target Center back in February 2011, as city leaders and the Timberwolves got the project latched on to the bill that allocated funds for a new Vikings football stadium.

As talks dragged on over the last 18 months, adjustments to the plan were made. The immediate plans for the renovation won’t be quite as dramatic, but the city has tabbed an additional $50 million capital expenditure fund to keep the bells and whistles in the new-look arena up to date in later years as well.

“It took a little while, but we got it done,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said.

The plan will be reviewed by a City Council committee on Thursday. Design work will begin this winter with construction tentatively scheduled for next spring. The Timberwolves and defending WNBA champion Lynx plan to play in the building while the renovations are going on.

Even if the building won’t get the same overhaul as initially planned, any significant improvements will be met with open arms by the players who travel the rest of the league and see what they’re missing out on. Target Center’s locker rooms are among the smallest in the league, the weight room is about the size of a decent high school’s facilities and there is one practice court in the bowels of the building.

“I’m coming from Europe and I’ve been in locker rooms with no spaces,” Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. “Once I came here, I thought (Target Center) was great. Then I see all the other NBA courts and they were even (better). … We have great facilities. But if we can get better, I’m happy with it.”

The Wolves are also discussing a plan for a new practice facility and office space across the street in a mostly empty shopping and entertainment complex known as Block E, another sign that the franchise doesn’t plan to go anywhere while prospective owners in Seattle court a new team. Taylor has long been committed to keeping the team in his home state, so much so that he pulled the franchise off the market this summer after being unable to find a buyer who would ensure the team would stay here.

With the lease extension and the new updates, the Wolves appear to be on strong ground in the Twin Cities for the long haul.

“For me, I have never anticipated, nor have I ever suggested that I was going to move it,” Taylor said. “But it puts in place that whoever will be the future owner, it has to be somebody that understands the agreement that we’ve made with the city and fulfills that.”