Start of Target Center upgrades taking longer than expected

Renovations to the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx have yet to begin as the timeline for the improvements was underestimated.

Last October, the Timberwolves announced plans to begin renovations of the Target Center in the upcoming spring and summer months.

Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- At one point, Timberwolves and Lynx brass had hoped to see the teams' home venue start receiving upgrades as soon as the NBA season ended.

But Minnesota wrapped up another playoff-less campaign two weeks ago, and no visible work has begun. The effort "appears to be moving very slow," team owner Glen Taylor told FOXSportsNorth.com.

So slow, in fact, that Taylor isn't even sure when work on the 23-year-old will actually commence.

"No idea," Taylor said. "That process has always been something where I've guessed wrong on it, so I don't even guess."

When it announced the project in October, the franchise estimated crews could start hammering away this spring or summer. That's still possible, but some procedural steps are taking longer than expected.

When the renovations -- which include additional clubs and gathering spaces, better traffic flow, improved amenities and a more attractive outer facade -- will be completed is even more of a crapshoot.

"I would say we're frustrated by the timeline, but we're not pointing fingers at anyone," Timberwolves and Lynx senior vice president of marketing Ted Johnson told FSN. "It is what it is, and I think we underestimated the amount of time that some of these steps would take."

Currently, the team and city are interviewing candidates to sign on as the project's architecture and engineering partner and picking a construction manager to oversee and carry out the actual endeavor. Nine architectural groups responded to Minneapolis' request for proposals, and Johnson expects to announce the bid winner in the next two weeks. Either Mortenson Construction or Thor Construction, both based out of Minnesota, will take on the project's construction aspects.

Johnson hopes to conduct interviews with those two companies in mid-May, which would have the project on track to begin sometime this summer. Preliminary estimates say the work will take between 18-24 months.

But that timeline could be altered, too.

Work can't begin until architectural and construction companies are chosen, which includes a vote for each by the Minneapolis City Council. Crews also can't perform nearly as many tasks during the Timberwolves' basketball season, and the Lynx will play at least 17 home games at the Target Center between May 16 and the end of August.

Finding time in between games and concerts to make alterations may prove difficult.

"There's just dozens and dozens of questions like that that we can identify the types of questions," Johnson said, "but really, we will be no closer to the answers until we really get into it."

That's the same for what specifics improvements can be made under the facelift's $97 million price tag. Initial renderings depict a glass-heavy exterior with a larger-than-life image of Kevin Love. The arena will also be better suited for hosting concerts with more efficient loading docks and increased seating for non-athletic events, the team and city say.

A new scoreboard and other in-game entertainment features are also on Taylor's wish list.

To cover the costs, the team will contribute $43 million, while the city sets aside $48.5 million. AEG, a city-appointed firm that operates sports and entertainment venues throughout the country, plans to chip in an additional $5.5 million. There's also a $50 million capital improvement fund to keep the city-owned building prettied up through the life of the agreement. 

"The things that need to be addressed for each party remains constant," Johnson said. "But until a team is in place, we won't do a whole lot of serious vetting of options and solutions."

Progress on the NBA and WNBA clubs' new practice facility, though, is moving at a quicker pace.

The privately funded "Mayo Clinic Square" project co-sponsored by the widely-respected health care system is already starting to take shape inside the old Block E property across the street from the Target Center. Interior demolition on the third and fourth floors of the building is almost complete, and walls should start being erected within the next two weeks, according to Johnson.

The 105,000-square facility will cost about $50 million in total and replace Minnesota's outdated, cramped practice setup located in the Target Center Lifetime Fitness center. If all goes according to plan -- though it rarely does when it comes to construction -- the new digs could be ready for use by the time the Timberwolves open training camp.

"We're going to see if it's possible for us to get this thing completed by fall," Johnson said. "But we're also trying to balance that expectation with the idea that it may actually take us slightly longer. Where we stand right now, we're trying to build this facility in half the time it would normally take. We're moving under an incredibly aggressive timeline."

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