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Target Field has made Target Center an advertising target.
In a lawsuit scheduled to go to trial next week, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who play in Target Center, are battling the arena's management company over which gets to sell advertising space on one of the facility's gigantic outside walls.
That wall is suddenly prime billboard territory because Target Field next door will soon be full of thousands of Minnesota Twins fans, and every time they look toward right field, Target Center's big wall will be in the background.
Plus, the year-round Target Plaza opens March 13, meaning a significant increase in pedestrians near the wall, labeled in court documents as Target Center's "Second Avenue North exterior face."
The team and the company, AEG Management MN, each claims the exclusive right to sell advertising space on the suddenly hot wall.
The city owns the building but isn't involved in the Hennepin County District Court lawsuit, scheduled for a two-day trial starting Monday in front of Judge Charles Porter. The Timberwolves' owners filed the lawsuit in November.
The team's owners say they must have new advertisers and signs in place on the wall by the start of the Twins' season or they will suffer financial damages.
They say 1995 and 2000 agreements on the arena's operation gave them all advertising rights. AEG argues it has the right to advertising opportunities that arose after the 2000 agreement.
Further raising the stakes is that Target Center's naming rights are up for renewal in 2011. The Timberwolves control the naming rights and are locked into the arena through 2025.
"The value of the naming rights would be severely impaired and diluted if the Timberwolves ... did not have exclusive rights to all additional advertising," the lawsuit said.
Team owners added that it's "critically important" they be able to ensure the arena's exterior advertising is consistent with its namesake -- to prevent, for example, Wal-mart from placing a giant sign on Target Center, facing Target Field.
In a prepared statement, Timberwolves CEO Rob Moor said that, generally, the team has a "fine relationship" with AEG but was forced into suing after months of negotiations and mediation failed. "The parties simply have a fundamental disagreement over our contractual rights," Moor said.
The Timberwolves also say AEG has interfered with the team's exclusive rights to sell advertising and product sponsorship by negotiating in 2009 with Dietz & Watson to sell hot dogs and reaching a similar agreement with Aliki Pizza. In court documents, AEG denied violating any contract.
Porter earlier denied the Timberwolves' owners a restraining order to prohibit AEG from erecting signs on the wall or from signing up advertisers.
AEG's Twin Cities-based lawyer, Todd Wind, would not comment; nor would lawyers for the team. AEG is an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group.
Minnesota Ballpark Authority executive director Dan Kenney doesn't have a say and wouldn't share his thoughts about what should be displayed on Target Center, but he noted that public and private money was invested to make an alluring green space over the Interstate 394 corridor.
"We've worked very hard with the Twins, with Target and with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to create this unique public space," Kenney said.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747