Timberwolves President Chris Wright reports that the Twin Cities surely are more excited about their NBA team than they have been in some time, and that enthusiasm is showing this offseason.
"We're having an incredible summer, obviously with the announcement of Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden, who are incredible additions to our basketball franchise, but then with the recent draft pick of Kris Dunn at No. 5 in the draft, ticket sales have just been extraordinarily good," Wright said. "We're already right at about 1,000 new full season tickets during the summer, which we're on pace to do about 1,800 to 2,000 brand-new season tickets for next year, so our base is going to grow exponentially from one year to the next."
While the Wolves offseason is getting ramped up with Summer League play starting Friday, and the defending WNBA champion Lynx remain one of the best teams in their league, Wright said the biggest project going right now is the start of the $140 million renovation of Target Center.
"Our suite level is basically all sort of closed down, we have a drape over the top of the front of the suite level," he said. "So our suite level is being completely remodeled as we speak."
One of the most noticeable changes to the 26-year-old arena in downtown Minneapolis will start when the Lynx are on break for the Olympics, he said.
"A brand-new scoreboard is going to be hung at the center of Target Center, and it will be the biggest indoor scoreboard in the Upper Midwest region by the time it is finished," he said. "So we're very excited about that. That will be available for the remaining Lynx games when everybody gets back from Brazil."
While construction will continue during the Lynx season and the Wolves season this year, once the Wolves finish their 2016-17 season, the entire building will be shut down next summer. Wright said the Lynx still are determining where they will play at that time.
"The summer of '17, we are closing down the building to complete the renovation — moving our box office to the corner of 6th [Street] and 1st [Avenue], moving our courtside club to the current lobby, so the Lynx will be displaced for one season," he said. "We're looking at a number of different sites. Right now we're negotiating through the terms of all these different sites. I think within the next two or three weeks, we'll make a determination of where the Lynx will play in 2017."
Wright said he believes the Wolves will not hold a preseason camp in Mankato, as they have in years past.
"We doubt it, because you know the incredible facility we built at Mayo Clinic Square, the only complicating factor to that is how deep the Lynx go," he said. "We expect another extended run inside of the playoffs, and then with the onset of [Wolves] training camp at the beginning of October with coach Thibs and Scott, if there is a massive overlap in terms of time and scheduling issues we may have to look at an off-site location."
Another big announcement with the Wolves and Lynx this summer was the sale of two minority ownership stakes in the club to Lizhang (John) Jiang and Meyer Orbach. Wright was asked if they will be visible owners with the club.
"I think that they are, especially Meyer Orbach, who is obviously from New Jersey and New York and already purchased two courtside seats, I think he's planning to come in for a lot of our games," Wright said. "I think maybe some of the games he will donate to different people but he's purchased two courtside seats so he intends to fly in. I'm just not sure yet about our Chinese investor, who, for all intents and purposes, is headquartered in mainland China. He has a group of people who work for him on this side of the ocean, but we'll see. We'll have some meetings with him coming up shortly."
Nunez a great pickup
While the Twins have made some questionable front-office decisions in recent years, they have to be credited for acquiring Eduardo Nunez from the Yankees for Miguel Sulbaran, a 22-year-old lefthander who has been on the disabled list for Class AA Trenton all year.
Nunez is the Twins' lone All-Star, entering Thursday hitting .316 with 11 homers, 36 RBI and 43 runs scored. Over three seasons with the Twins, he has hit .287 with 35 doubles, six triples and 19 homers, and he has proved to be a great addition.
"He didn't get much of a chance to play in New York because they were so talented, and when he came over here he brought in the reputation that he was a utility player," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said this week. "But he's proved that he can do more than be a utility player. Here he is as an All-Star all of a sudden. He's as proud as you can be."
Manager Paul Molitor batted away any idea that Nunez is undeserving of the honor simply because every club has to have a representative.
"Regardless of where we're at as a club, I think you can justify his first half being All-Star caliber," he told MLB.com. "He hasn't had any issue with me bouncing him around from third to short and second occasionally, and since he's been in the leadoff spot, he's been a catalyst for us as far as baserunning and consistency getting on base, driving in runs, scoring runs."
Nunez is a bargain at $1.4 million this season. He is arbitration eligible for two more years, so look for him to get a big raise in 2017.
• The NFL Network announced its Top 100 football players and at No. 5 was Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. The only other Vikings on the list were safety Harrison Smith at No. 73 and defensive tackle Linval Joseph at No. 76.
• You wonder if the Wolves have any interest in former Gophers forward Kris Humphries, who still is available as a free agent after being paid $4 million by three teams last season. He averaged 6.5 points and 4.1 rebounds last season and can still be a contributor at age 31.
• The Twins picking up Robbie Grossman in May from Cleveland didn't seem like a big deal, but the switch-hitting outfielder, who is making $500,000, has continued to produce. He entered Thursday tied for second on the team with 35 walks even though he had only played in barely half their games. Grossman is not eligible for arbitration until 2018.
• Rumors continue to swirl that Gary Trent Jr. will not play at Apple Valley High School this season but will transfer to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev. Milwaukee Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn played his senior year of 2013-14 at Findlay rather than at Cooper. The 6-6 Trent had a team-high 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting for the United States in its 96-56 victory over Turkey for the gold medal at the under-17 world championships in Spain on Sunday.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org