The Target Center from First Ave., last week. The Minneapolis City Council is considering adding $24.5 million in public contributions to a renovation of the city owned facility. David Joles / Star Tribune
A proposal to up the city's contribution to upgrades on the downtown Target Center arena has cleared another Minneapolis City Council hurdle, though some council members say they're opposed to more spending.
The city has already agreed to spend $50 million on a project now expected to cost $129 million. But last week, a council committee heard a recommendation to boost the support by another $24.5 million because of rising construction costs.
That committee approved the higher spending on the city owned facility, which hosts concerts and home games of the Minnesota Timberwolves, among other events. On Wednesday, that vote was forwarded along to the council's Ways and Means Committee, where members approved more spending with a 4-2 vote -- but only after some debate over the Target Center's value to the local economy.
City officials say the higher contribution -- which would amount to about $500,000 to $1 million more each year in debt payments -- would be covered by sales tax revenue. The city also pays for the facility with parking revenue and rental payments from the Timberwolves. If the facility makes more than is needed in a given year, extra revenues can be used for other city expenses.
Meanwhile, the new proposal would drop the city's contribution for long-term repairs from $50 million to $20 million.
Council Members John Quincy, Linea Palmisano, Blong Yang and Jacob Frey said they believed the adjustments would ensure the city is taking adequate care of an important resource.
"We own the Target Center and we have an obligation to fix it and make it better," Yang said. "If this extends the life of the Target Center and makes it a more world-class facility, I'd be all for it."
Council President Barb Johnson, who is not a member of the committee, joined the discussion to offer her support. She noted that the Target Center last year was ranked as the No. 17 arena in the world for ticket sales by Pollstar, an agency that tracks such facilities.
"It's not like nobody's going there," she said. "We are going to put dollars in that will make it a more viable and vital piece of downtown."
Council Members Andrew Johnson and Lisa Bender disagreed. Johnson said he's concerned about skyrocketing construction costs that could be pushed higher by another major project with high demands on materials and labor.
He said that could cause private developers to hold off on other projects around the city. Johnson also questions the amount of money the Timberwolves plan to contribute to the project and said he'd like to see the city refocus its spending on other priorities, like road repairs.
Bender, meanwhile, said she's not convinced stadiums and concert venues do enough for cities' economies. She said she supports maintaining the building in its current form through its useful lifespan -- perhaps another 10 years -- and then reassessing the value of the property. She suggested that a residential or office development could be a better use of the space.
"I disagree with that underlying premise that this is a good investment for the city," she said.
The revised spending plan will still require the vote of the full council.