Target Center to undergo $97 million in renovations

MINNEAPOLIS — In an attempt to keep pace with its football, baseball and hockey brethren, the Target Center is officially scheduled for a makeover.

The Timberwolves, City of Minneapolis and Anschutz Entertainment Group announced Monday morning they’ve reached a deal to renovate the arena for $97 million. By far the oldest and most run-down facility of the Twin Cities’ four major professional sports franchises, the Target Center “needed some fix-up,” Timberwolves and Lynx owner Glen Taylor said during a press conference in front of the 23-year-old structure’s box office.

That requirement focuses mainly on the fan experience. Although design plans won’t be finalized until next month, expected upgrades include additional clubs and gathering spaces, better pedestrian traffic flow, an exterior facelift and improved food, drink and restroom amenities.

Initial renderings depict a glass-heavy outer façade 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.

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

“It’s going to be a lot of little things that add up,” Taylor said.

After months of haggling, 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 Timberwolves’ lease, originally set to expire in 2025, now extends to 2032. The NBA team’s sister WNBA club is locked into the Target Center for the same time period.

Taylor said he wouldn’t have minded a new home court but agreed with Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak that revamping the existing one made the most “common sense.”

“We are so appreciative of our fans, and now to have them come to a facility that’ll even be nicer, I think, will be a great treat for them,” said Taylor, the head honcho of Taylor Corporation and a former Minnesota state senator. “Yes, I would’ve liked a new facility. But I’m a Minnesotan. I served in the legislature. I know about taxes, because I pay a lot of them. I thought about what would be the most common-sense.”

Said Rybak: “We said that we wanted to breathe new life into Target Center. We wanted to set a Minnesota-style example of how to take an existing building and make a good, new future for it.”

Nearby Target Field was built in 2010. Finished in 2000, Xcel Energy Center is 10 years younger than its basketball-hosting brother across the river. The Vikings are close to finalizing their own state-of-the art replacement for the Metrodome that should be ready to go by the summer of 2016.

So should a new-look Target Center.

The city, team and AEG first announced in Feb. 2011 their desire to update the Timberwolves and Lynx’s aging digs. Legislation for the Vikings stadium includes a pool of money aimed at doing so.

Since the stadium bill passed in May 2012, the three parties hashed out the particulars. The original price tag was estimated at $150 million but dipped into the $100 million neighborhood as talks — which Rybak characterized as “difficult” — progressed.

The agreement is still pending Minneapolis City Council approval, which council president Barb Johnson said should come easy. The plans will be presented Thursday, with a final vote scheduled for Nov. 12.

“I think it will be just fine,” Johnson said.

Once that final piece of the political puzzle is in place, design work can commence. Construction is scheduled to begin next spring or summer and take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

Neither the Timberwolves nor the Lynx will have to relocate during the undertaking. Rybak said the arena should remain open for most of the project’s duration.

And while it’s not a brand-new hoops destination, Taylor hopes Monday’s news exemplifies his and the team’s investment extended not only to fans but to players as well.

The two go hand-in-hand, he said.

“Obviously, I’m committed to the future,” Taylor said. “I have always been, but I think that these young (players) can see that the commitment is not only to the team but for the facilities around them. I think this will be helpful in us attracting players.”

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