Some eyebrows were raised a few weeks ago when the Minnesota Timberwolves hired several lobbyists to work the
Capitol crowd this session. Today we found out why.
The City of Minneapolis and the Timberwolves today unveiled a $150 million dollar renovation plan for Target Center.
That makes the $8 million for renovations in Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding proposal yesterday petty cash by comparison. It also makes it a long shot to get any more funding from the state, try as city and team officials did today.
First, the Timberwolves aren’t threatening to move. Second, few people would care if they did. That perhaps is the reason why an afternoon news conference stressed the non-Timberwolves events. Only 25 percent of the events at Target Center are Timberwolves games, they said.
The officials used the term “renovations” during the news conference — conjuring up the notion of a little tweaking here and a little tweaking there. But the proposal is actually a gutting of the current 20-year-old facility.
If those look familiar to you, you’ve probably been to Target Field. The proposal stresses plenty of glass, and a few restaurants, more premium seating, more corporate sponsorship opportunities.
Timberwolves owner Glenn Taylor did not indicate how much the team would contribute to the project.
Live-blog of the news conference follows:
1:08 p.m. – Mayor R. T. Rybak: “It’s time to move forward. Minnesota is a state of practical people making tough decisions. He says the building represents Minnesota values. Says to make the building competitive, the state needs to invest in it.
“We saw what happened when Target Field opened. It electrified the city. It brought in revenue to the state.”
1:12 p.m. – Council President Barbara Johnson says the renovation will relieve the taxpayers of Minnesota.
1:13 p.m. – Steve Mattson, of the company that manages Target Center , says 37% of “non-game event” tickets are sold to people outside the city.
1:15 p.m. – Glenn Taylor, owner of the Timberwolves. Says he’s seen the financials on other NBA teams. “It would be nice to have a brand new facility, but I’m a Minnesotan who served in the Legislature. And I’m a taxpayer. We never brought up the idea of a new building. It’s prudent, as an owner and taxpayer, that it’s best to take advantage of a building already built.
1:20 p.m. – Sam Grabarski, Minneapolis Downtown Council, says keeping the Timberwolves competitive (Bob notes: the TWolves haven’t been competitive in years and it’s not the building’s fault) is important.
1:22 p.m. – Todd Klingel, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The state has a $7 million investment in Target Center; it’s received back over $120 million in revenue. It’s proven itself to have value while it’s still in a strong state. It’s the right time because financing is at historic lows, construction costs are at historic lows.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: Any conversation with people at the Legislature?
A: Rybak: “Yes, but they’re just beginning.”
Taylor: “We’ll participate in this and we’ll be up front in the conversations about how much we’ll contribute to it.”
Q: How will renovations make Target Center self sufficient?
A: Steve Mattson: The building is in a deficit. How will it keep us relevant. You’ve got to do the things the clients are asking you to do. These renovations will address those issues.
Rybak: “The return of investment of the building does not take place solely inside the building.”
Q: Have you talked to the Vikings and Saints about combining on one bill?
A: Rybak: Only in general terms. It’s early on that conversation.
Q: What’s the $8 million from Gov. Dayton for?
A: Rybak: There’s ongoing maintenance on the building. State money goes toward those projects. It’s for right now. What’s in the bonding bill is different than what we’re talking about today.
We could wait until the building is obsolete and come back with a proposal like they did in Orlando — a $480 million arena.
Q: What are you renovating?
A: Mattson: In the last several years, you’ve seen arenas open up the walls so you can feel energy. The mockup (above) is exactly that, capturing stairwell space and widening out the building.
Q: How long would this take?
A: The dollars reflect not shutting the building. 15-18 months.
Q: How long will the arena be competitive.
A: Rybak: The market is moving past us, there’s no way to answer that. It’s a 15-20 year vision for this building. It’ll get us on a par with communities who have spent more.
Q: Is this why the Democrats chose Charlotte for their national convention?
A: Rybak: No.
Q: What do you say to taxpayers who are losing services?
A: Rybak: We cannot be in a position to put more property tax dollars into this because they cannot compete with the basic services of police and fire and fixing potholes. But it would be irresponsible to let this building deteriorate. There are many people having to make difficult decisions about their house; we do that to. Now is the time to put together a partnership that dwarfs what we’d have to do if we didn’t.