Ceremonial events such as the one held Wednesday at Target Center — with dignitaries including Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges swinging golden sledgehammers to commemorate the start of the renovation that will mean $100 million in upgrades to the building — don’t typically have much meaning or substance.
This one, though, at least had some important context.
There was a time, believe it or not, when Target Center was shiny and new. That was 25 years ago — a generation, give or take — and the local sports facilities landscape was incredibly different from it is now.
The North Stars, soon to bolt town, were playing in the aging Met Center. Williams Arena was “only” 62 years old. The Vikings, Twins and Gophers football shared the Metrodome — where the Wolves played, too, for a year before Target Center opened. There was no Xcel Energy Center, no TCF Bank Stadium, no Target Field and no U.S. Bank Stadium. There wasn’t even the new Mariucci Arena.
All of those things have since been built — along with the Saints’ CHS Field already up and a new soccer stadium on the horizon. And all the while, Target Center kept getting older and shabbier — a seeming relic even at a quarter-century old.
Minneapolis City Council member Lisa Goodman said Wednesday, “It’s one of the ugliest buildings in town.” But she added in the same breath that it will soon be made beautiful.
Beautiful? Target Center? The Target Center in downtown Minneapolis?
Indeed, that is the 18-month renovation plan. A dynamic new entrance at 6th street and 1st avenue will be a major component of the exterior improvement.
Inside, there will be improved suites, more comfortable seats, better bathrooms, better concessions and a new scoreboard (which will be installed during the Olympic break for the Lynx in August).
What’s being preserved is, well, the best thing Target Center has had going for it from the start: location. As Target Field and other developments have sprouted up around it on the west end of downtown Minneapolis, that selling point has only grown stronger. Renovating, instead of starting over for many times the cost, made sense.
“If I had my choice from scratch I would still pick this location,” said Timberwolves CEO Rob Moor. “What’s the reality — we tear this down into a hole in the ground? Probably not. But we’re lucky enough with this facility that it has really good bones. … The basic building is strong. The sensible way to do things is to keep as much as we possibly can.”
Target Center had to get in line behind a lot of other projects before Wednesday’s ceremony became a reality, a process Moor diplomatically referred to as “a long time to work through the details.”
Hodges said the renovation will take the building “to the next level.”
When it’s done, it won’t be brand-new. But the publicly owned Target Center will no longer be the “yeah, but” when we talk about all the impressive sports facilities in the market.