The Minneapolis City Council made a wise decision when it voted overwhelmingly last week to renovate Target Center — one of its key downtown assets and home to the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, as well as a popular venue for concerts and other events.
To fund the $128.9 million renovation — which will upgrade the exterior, seats, technology and loading bays, among other areas — the city will contribute $74 million. The Timberwolves and Lynx, which are owned by Star Tribune owner Glen Taylor, will pay a total of $49 million, and the sports and entertainment company AEG will kick in $5.9 million.
Spending public money on sports and entertainment facilities is always controversial, but this was a responsible council vote that should ensure that Target Center will be competitive for years to come.
The renovations will keep the Wolves in the building through 2035, which is 10 more years than the current lease. By then, the team will have been in Target Center for 45 years, which far supersedes league trends. Target Center is unlikely to ever be as closely associated with Minneapolis as the iconic Madison Square Garden is to New York. But in its own way, the arena represents the sensibilities of the city.
“This old elephant is still an economic generator for this part of downtown and the people who work there, many of whom live in the city of Minneapolis,” Council Member Lisa Goodman said at a March City Council committee meeting.
Goodman’s right. And consider the alternative: The “old elephant” in Milwaukee is the Bradley Center, which hosts the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and a similar slate of concerts and events. That arena opened in 1988, just two years before Target Center, but now may be replaced at a cost of around $500 million. In a scenario quite familiar to most Minnesotans, the decision has sparked a distracting funding debate involving Gov. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin Legislature and the city of Milwaukee.
Target Center is integral to downtown Minneapolis, and it faces stiff competition from the considerably more modern Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul. Minneapolis must maintain its ability to compete for events so its ownership doesn’t detract from more essential city services.
There’s upside for other downtown businesses, too, especially if the renovation brings even more events to an entertainment district that includes Target Field. “A city of our size and aspirations wants and needs an 18,000-20,000 capacity event center,” Kevin Carpenter, the city’s chief financial officer, told an editorial writer. “This [renovation] is a responsible way, and a sensible solution, to stretch the life of an existing arena of that same dimension and make it more competitive to attract events for the next 10 years, and it gives us 10 more years of additional events that does include sports.”
We agree, and applaud the 11 of 13 City Council members who voted accordingly.