$150M renovation unveiled for Target Center

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 2, 2011 - 7:26 AM

A proposal for a $150 million face-lift has support from officials and boosters who say the Timberwolves' home is outdated. Who would foot the bill? That hasn't been decided.

An array of civic leaders on Tuesday proposed a $150 million renovation they said would keep Target Center in downtown Minneapolis competitive for 20 years.

But they said they still have to work out who would pay for it.

The plans would open up the city-owned building more to the street and nearby facilities such as Target Field. It would expand concourses and renovate locker rooms. New fan services such as another restaurant, a new bar, a food court, new club seats and a VIP entrance would be added.

Backers say they'll make a pitch for state assistance, arguing that the state benefits from arena taxes. But the city, the Timberwolves and facility manager AEG also are potential contributors, according to John Stiles, spokesman for Mayor R.T. Rybak.

One source that Rybak ruled out is an additional contribution from city property taxes. The city already collects about $5 million annually in property taxes to pay off the arena's debt.

The arena itself generates another $1.1 million in property taxes. Those are combined with a city-collected entertainment tax and parking collections to finance about $5 million annually in basic arena renovations.

Rybak said the $150 million plan would be atop that current $50 million, 10-year renovation of building systems.

There was no start date given for the proposal. Boosters said that Target Center is the fourth-oldest arena in the NBA, and teams that came into the league in the same era as the Timberwolves have much newer arenas.

The team is the arena's single biggest user, but concerts, family shows, the Lynx and other sporting and community events make up three-quarters of the facility's dates.

Rybak, Wolves owner Glen Taylor and others said renovation is a more cost-effective approach than replacing the 21-year-old arena.

But city Council Member Gary Schiff said that the city will face a similar renovation need in 20 years unless it sheds ownership.

The city already asked the state for $8 million in basic arena improvements. Gov. Mark Dayton recommended that this week in his bonding bill. But the legislation faces skepticism in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Neither the governor's office nor legislative leaders responded immediately to requests for comment.

Backers of the renovation didn't specify how the state should contribute, but they did refer repeatedly to some $120 million in taxes they said the arena has generated for the state. They also said that 70 percent of people attending arena events come from outside Minneapolis.

They contend that facilities such as Xcel Energy Center and Target Field have raised fans' expectations.

"I think the fans that come to basketball games, and people who come to concerts and family shows simply aren't experiencing the kinds of amenities -- the scoreboard, the lighting, the sound system, concession stands -- that are so common now in other parts of the country," said David Kahn, Timberwolves president of basketball operations.

Rybak said the city intends to contribute financially to the renovation, but just how the city could do so remains speculative. The city has argued it needs to preserve its downtown hospitality taxes to renovate the city-owned Convention Center. One source of income that contributes to arena finances -- income from parking lots and ramps -- is stressed.

Although there seems to be City Council sentiment that the arena should be kept competitive, some are uncomfortable with the city's role.

"I own a facility that I don't want to own, and I don't think that city ownership benefits city taxpayers," Schiff said.

Competition argument

Those pushing for renovations say earlier proposals for revamping the building in 1999 and 2007 were shelved. They say the arena risks falling behind in the competition for major attractions, such as concerts.

Rybak said the $50 million in renovations the city has launched are comparable to replacing the carpet and plumbing in a house, while he said the new proposal would be like adding a family room.

One of the most visible changes would be to provide views into and out of the arena's public spaces instead of the current mostly opaque facade.

Timberwolves officials said the building has among the most cramped footprints in the NBA, and the renovation would add space. The lobby would get new televisions, a better scoreboard and message boards. Toilets and concession stands would be renovated on the main concourse. There would be a new restaurant overlooking Target Field and more seating options.

Backers argue that without those renovations the arena risks mimicking the old St. Paul Civic Center, which was torn down for Xcel. Replacing Target Center would be much more expensive, they argue.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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