City reaches deal for $97 million Target Center renovation

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October 28, 2013 // UPDATED 9:04 am - November 3, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

City leaders have brokered a deal with the Timberwolves, Lynx and AEG for a $97 million renovation of Target Center.

The deal, still subject to City Council approval, has the city contributing $48.5 million, the Timberwolves and Lynx paying $43 million, and AEG paying $5.5 million. The 23-year-old entertainment complex is owned by the city and managed by AEG.

City leaders have also pledged to create a $50 million capital improvement fund for Target Center. The deal also keeps the Timberwolves and the Lynx in the facility until 2032, and extends AEG's agreement with the city through 2032.

The renovation is designed to "breathe new life" into Target Center, said Mayor R.T. Rybak at a news conference this morning.

Rybak said the Vikings stadium legislation was the lynchpin for the Target Center renovation deal because it gave the city more control of the city's sales and hospitality taxes, allowing them to be used for a range of economic development projects instead of just the Convention Center. The legislation also saves the city $5 million annually in Target Center property tax relief, he said.

The stadium legislation also allows the city to proceed with the deal without giving the public a chance to vote on the Target Center renovations. It overruled the city charter, which requires a vote on spending more than $10 million in public funds on stadiums.

Pending Council approval, construction work would start next spring and take 18 to 24 months to complete. Target Center would remain open during construction.

Glen Taylor, majority owner of the Timberwolves and Lynx teams, said he didn't push for a new facility because of the potential cost to taxpayers.

"I know about taxes because I pay a lot of them," he said at the news conference. "This is a fair and sensible solution."

The news conference was short on design details for the new Target Center as plans for the exterior of the building will be finalized in coming months, said Jeremy Hanson Willis, director of the city's Community Planning and Economic Development department.

The focus will be on making improvements to the building's lower third and the entrance area at the corner of 1st Avenue & 6th Street, he said. An illustration showing a glassy atrium on the corner released more than a year ago to promote the renovation project is just conceptual, Hanson Willis said. 

The goal is to have a RFP out for architects and builders interested in bidding on the project within a month, he said. 

Inside, Target Center will feature an improved lobby area and more amenities for suite ticket holders. Concerts will also feature more seating and other improvements designed to improve the experience for ticket holders. 

When the city first proposed a makeover for Target Center in February 2011, the proposal was for a $155 million renovation. Hanson Willis said despite the smaller price tag there will still be enough money for significant improvements.

Dan McConnell, business manager for the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council, praised the deal for generating 850 new construction jobs.

City Council President Barb Johnson said the deal has broad support from Council members. There will be a hearing on the renovation project on Oct. 31 before the Council's Committee of the Whole. The full Council is scheduled to vote on the renovation project Nov. 12.

Betsy Hodges, chair of the Council's Ways & Means/Budget Committee and a mayoral candidate, said she supports the project. 

"I think we're going to get a good facility out of it for sure," she said. "It is going to make Target [Center] even more competitive than it is now. I think our staff did a good job of making sure that it was a very good deal for the city."

Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Stephanie Woodruff, who serves as vice chair of the city's Audit Committee, issued a statement blasting Rybak and other city officials for prioritizing a renovation of Target Center over other projects in the city. 

"The proposal to fund the renovation of Target Center with discretionary city sales tax revenues could have gone to our struggling neighborhoods," she said. "... The lack of transparency around this deal and the lack of public input is appalling." 

At an event at the Bulldog NE on Tuesday, Woodruff unveiled a 100-day plan should would implement if elected. It calls for creating a Neighborhood Investment Fund to help pay for housing and economic development projects with city sales tax revenues. She would also create a capital fund for early childhood learning centers and learning labs.