In case you were concerned about the reportedly smallish returns from gambling, tobacco and firearms sales not being enough to finance the construction of the Vikings stadium, Target Center renovations and funding for all Minnesota schools, hospitals, veterans care facilities and homeless shelters — fear not. For only some of those things are truly not happening. What am I talking about? Let the new Fox Sports North guy explain…
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ roster isn’t all that’s being retooled this offseason.
While the team’s personnel staff works feverishly to evaluate draft talent and assess its free-agent situation, other members of the front office are immersed in the primary stages of a giant facilities facelift.
There’s a 24-year-old arena in desperate need of renovation. And there are two professional basketball franchises currently practicing in its basement, which doubles as a public-use fitness club.
“We have a lot of different needs,” said Ted Johnson, the Timberwolves’ senior vice president of marketing and communications.
According to Johnson, he, the Timberwolves, Minnesota Lynx, Target Center management firm AEG and the City of Minneapolis are closer to meeting them.
Negotiations with the city concerning Target Center renovations made possible by the Vikings stadium bill “are going along really well,” Johnson said. “We fully expect we’ll be able to come to an agreement.”
Such an accord would lock down long-needed upgrades to the Timberwolves and Lynx’s gameday home, once priced at $150 million but that could fall all the way to $100 million. When the Minneapolis City Council passed the vast, landmark multi-facility legislation in May 2012, Johnson said he thought talks with the city would progress fairly quickly, with blueprints and renderings already hatched before final government approval.
But a year and a month later, both sides are still haggling.
Johnson said they won’t be for much longer.
“We’re measuring the time in weeks, not months, until we have an official announcement,” he said.
The city is expected to contribute somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million to $70 million, while the Timberwolves and AEG pledged about $50 million. Those funds will be used to place the Target Center on par with the Xcel Energy Center, Target Field and the planned Vikings stadium that allowed the basketball and concert venue’s facelift to be pushed through in the first place.
That makeover includes the addition of more food and drink points of sale (specifically bars), wider concourses, a larger and more inviting external gathering space outside the main entrance, additional seating and the various video components typical of modern-day stadiums.
“It’s a whole host of things,” Johnson said. “If I had to sort of summarize it, we’re looking to provide what fans are coming to expect in other facilities around not only the country, but the Cities.”
Once a firm plan is in place for the 20,500-seat Target Center, its hoops-playing tenants can turn their full attention toward yet another need: a practice facility.
News broke last week of the Timberwolves and their WNBA counterpart Lynx eyeing the abandoned Block E property across from the Target Center as a potential training complex. But Johnson said zeroing in on one potential site is premature.
Block E — which used to contain a Hooters, Applebee’s, AMC movie theater and Hard Rock Café — is only one of several proposed locales.
“We haven’t gotten to the point where we’ve sort of limited ourself to one location,” Johnson said. “We’ve had a lot of preliminary conversations with an awful lot of people. People come up to us, and we’ve explored sites. I assume that everyone focuses on Block E because they’re wondering what’s gonna go on on that block and that’s why they’re fixated on it, but we haven’t narrowed ourselves down to a single location or identified it yet.”
Johnson declined to say how many sites were being considered. “Suffice it to say we’re talking to multiple people about different locations,” he said.
Wherever it’s stationed, a new training facility would likely be a vast upgrade from the Timberwolves’ and Lynx’s current digs. They’d move from one court tucked into the corner of Lifetime Fitness to a two-floor complex with more weight training, hydrotherapy and rehabilitation equipment and space — likely in the neighborhood of 40,000 to 60,000 square feet.
But until the Target Center renovations are nailed down, Johnson said, there won’t be too many developments on the practice facility front.
“Renovation is our No. 1 priority, and we’re focused on that,” he said. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to announce something relatively soon if conversations continue to go well, and as soon as we get that done, we’ll move real aggressively on a practice facility.”