Rybak, Wolves want Target Center fixes

The $155 million plan would delay the future need for a new arena.

by James Nord

The city of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Timberwolves proposed a $155 million Target Center renovation Tuesday but offered little explanation of the projectâÄôs financing or timeline.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and City Council President Barb Johnson unveiled the plan at a press conference from the Target Center. Officials framed the renovations as a long-term cost saver, allowing the city to forgo building a completely new stadium in the future.

“Now itâÄôs time to move this to the next level,” Rybak said at the event. “What weâÄôre about to unveil is a practical but exciting vision for a building that has a great history and, I believe, an even greater future.”

Rybak said that while property taxes would not be used to finance the renovation, other funding sources have not yet been determined.

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

Minneapolis acquired the Target Center in 1995, and the arena is operated as a public-private partnership between a city department and Anschutz Entertainment Group.

The Target Center hosts about 200 events each year, 41 of which are Timberwolves regular season games.

Proponents of the plan argue that the arena earned state and local governments between $10 million and $15 million in taxes in 2009 alone, including money spent inside the Target Center and at nearby businesses.

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

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.

Council members out of the loop

John Stiles, a spokesman for Rybak, said the cityâÄôs financial commitment has not yet been decided.

“WeâÄôre just in the early stages of determining the finances,” he said. “WeâÄôre certainly willing to look at all options, but we havenâÄôt quantified yet what contributions we are asking of different partners.”

In recent years, the Timberwolves and the city worked together, with the city paying to replace the Target Center roof while the team paid for a new scoreboard.

“We have been in partnership in the past,” Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said. “I assume that in doing this project, weâÄôll be in partnership in the future.”

City Council members Diane Hofstede and Don Samuels said they werenâÄôt well-acquainted with the plan, though Hofstede said she supported it.

“IâÄôm not going to make any statement until I hear what any proposals would be,” Samuels said, acknowledging that he was out of the loop.

The office of Council Member Lisa Goodman, whose ward contains the Target Center, deferred all questions on the plan to Johnson.

Stiles said the proposal had been explained to council members.

According to a Forbes Magazine report, the Timberwolves rank 29th âÄî or second to last âÄî in total value among NBA teams. The team has lost money in six of the last seven years, according to the report, with total before-tax losses of $42 million during that time.

Though any financial commitment from Taylor was unclear, Forbes reported in December that Taylor is the 8th-wealthiest NBA owner, with a total estimated net worth of $2.2 billion.

“WeâÄôve been really appreciative of the leadership that the city has taken on this,” Taylor said. “This is not something thatâÄôs new, I would just tell you. It is something that weâÄôve been talking to them for quite some time in how we might present this and make the big step that weâÄôre doing today.”

Rybak and council members praised Gov. Mark DaytonâÄôs inclusion of $8 million for Target Center upkeep in his proposed bonding bill. The Timberwolves registered six lobbyists with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board in December 2010 and January 2011 in an effort to increase state support.

The state funding would supplement a $50 million commitment from the city over the next decade.

But Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, the House Capital Investment Committee chairman, said the bonding bill is a nonstarter.

“It wonâÄôt be this year, thatâÄôs pretty much a guarantee,” Howes said.

Stiles said that $8 million for upkeep would be “part of, or in addition to, one way or the other,” the publicâÄôs responsibility.

The city spends $12 million per year in maintenance, operation and debt service for the Target Center.


-The Associated Press contributed to this report.