The Minnesota Timberwolves step onto their new court Friday with a glittering new lineup in a glassy renovated Target Center.
Chief strategy officer Ted Johnson said the offseason renovations and roster building have been about “opening a new chapter in Timberwolves history.”
The $140 million in renovations to Target Center the past couple of years “touch every surface” in the building, he said. “We couldn’t be more excited to get the building open, get fans in here and play some basketball.”
With more brightly colored uniforms, the acquisition of veteran All-Star Jimmy Butler and the signing of young star Andrew Wiggins to a $148 million contract through 2023, the Wolves should be looking and feeling fresh.
Fans could feel fresh, too. All of the arena’s 18,978 seats are new and upholstered.
The Target Center renovation, funded by Minnesota Lynx-Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and the city, was needed for a 27-year-old facility that showed its age as the Wild, Twins and Vikings all got extensive upgrades or new digs.
Most of the Target Center changes are in the concourses and hospitality areas. The arena lost 400 seats, but wasn’t reconfigured. “This was built as a fantastic basketball arena with a great pitch,” Johnson said in explaining why the bowl went untouched.
Two of the bigger changes: The additions of a skyway from Ramp A that creates a new entrance on the southwest corner of the building and a two-story atrium on the northeast side of the building that faces downtown, serving as a new glittery lobby.
The centerpiece of the atrium is a multi-light chandelier in the shape of a basketball net. Suspended above it, and visible from the upper level is a metal basketball sculpture.
Wood-style finishes, metal trim and warmer lighting fill the formerly bleak gray concourses.
Jordan Nemerov and Kristin Poe, both from Maple Grove, took a sneak peak Monday evening “before it got super busy” during game nights and events.
“It’s 100 percent better,” said Nemerov, who used to work at the pro shop. “It was looking rough. The outside is now more clean and modern looking.”
Keith Gasner and Janet Benway were headed to Kieran’s Irish Pub when they decided to “poke their heads” inside and check out the renovations.
“It’s exciting,” Benway said as the pair walked out. Gasner said the lobby entrance located near 6th Street makes it easier for Target Center attendees to head to the bars, like Kieran’s, after events.
“I know [bars] see it as a positive for them,” he said.
Team executives have described the renovation as cracking open the building, letting in the light — and fans. Some 10,300 square feet of glass was added to the building’s exterior.
Many of the new club and suite spaces were completed for last season, but the team saved the ground-level Lexus Club for last. The club, available to the 500 fans who sit in the VIP-style extended floor seat area of the arena, occupies what used to be the main concrete lobby of the building kitty corner from First Avenue.
The club has a theater kitchen run by David Fhima. Food, drinks and valet parking are included in the price of their tickets that start at $550 per seat. Johnson said the Timberwolves had lagged behind other Twin Cities venues with a similar option for fans who want a luxury experience at sporting events.
All fans will have access to new gathering spots on the main concourse.
At the south end of the building on the main level, a new beer garden overlooks one end of the court. The area has about two dozen bar stools lining a drink rail. The concourses will feel wider as concessions areas have been set back.
Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, paid $58 million toward the renovation. Through a sales tax, the public is paying $74 million and building operator AEG paid almost $6 million.
With the completion of the project, the building has a $15 million capital reserve fund created by the city. Johnson said the money will likely be used for updating the building after a few years.
Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report.