For years, the Timberwolves and Lynx have practiced in the bowels of Life Time Fitness below Target Center. But they are both just months away from going from what Wolves Chief Marketing Officer Ted Johnson calls “pretty outdated facilities to the gold standard.”
Johnson led a tour Tuesday of the new practice facility the two teams will share. The organization has put $25 million into the privately funded project, which is housed in the old Block E — a mere skyway away from Target Center, which is slated for a $99 million renovation of its own.
It’s unusual for NBA teams to have practice facilities near their arenas, Johnson said, adding that the Lynx will be the first WNBA team to have their own dedicated training facility.
“We took a philosophically different approach,” Johnson said of housing the practice facility downtown near Target Center as opposed to most teams who have facilities in suburban areas. “We want to connect players to the community.”
The space will also hold the teams’ business offices and the already open Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center.
“There is nothing else like it in all of professional sports,” Johnson said.
The project was announced a year ago, and the original hope was the practice facility would open in time for the Wolves season. Concerns about vibration levels in the building pushed the project back, though, and now the target is late May — in time for the start of the Lynx season. Work is between 60 and 70 percent complete, Johnson said.
Among the unusual elements of the space, which will occupy 107,000 square feet: the two side-by-side practice courts, which like the rest of the facility are still under heavy construction, are located where two of Block E’s 500-seat movie theaters used to be. Fourteen of the 15 theaters were gutted; one was spared, though, for use as a presentation room.
The facility also will house three plunge treatment pools and a therapy pool consisting of more than 8,400 gallons of water.
Timberwolves coach and President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders, who started lobbying for an upgraded practice facility the first time he was with the team more than a decade ago, is a big believer in what the new facility will represent.
“I feel it’s going to be the best practice facility in the NBA,” Saunders said. “It’s going to help from a recruiting standpoint. … It shows the team has made a commitment to try to work and do what you can to be the best.”