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City of Minneapolis seeks upgrades for Target Center

By Brian Johnson
Dolan Media Newswires

Minneapolis — As Target Field gets ready for its big debut next month, an older neighbor that shares the same first name is quietly waiting for a series of improvements that would — in the city’s view — make the arena viable for the next two decades.

The city of Minneapolis — which owns the 20,500-seat Target Center, home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, concerts and other events — sought state money to pay for some of the planned upgrades, but the request failed to find its way into the conference committee bonding bill.

The unsuccessful legislative request called for $6.5 million in bond proceeds for lighting and public address upgrades, a central security and fire alarm system, and accessibility improvements, among other things.

But that’s just the beginning. In December, the city completed a Target Center capital improvement plan that envisions nearly $50 million worth of projects over the next 20 years to keep the building at a baseline level of quality.

“The needs are still real,” said Chris Larson, director of facilities with the Minneapolis Convention Center. “It’s a matter of where the funding will come from.”

The city has identified sources of money for projects in the 20-year plan — including tax increment revenue, entertainment tax from Target Center events and parking revenue — but the plan does not include the projects that were candidates for state money.

Larson noted that the arena faces increasing competition from theaters and newer facilities such as the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

And then there’s the new kid on the block — Target Field. Patrick Born, the city’s finance director, said it’s important for Target Field and Target Center to “work together and be good neighbors to each other,” and that both facilities are important to the success of downtown Minneapolis.

The city has made “frequent requests” to the Legislature for Target Center upgrades, he added, and has been “pretty consistently rebuffed.”

“We think the building is an asset of the state and that taxpayers around the state benefit from Target Center and use Target Center,” Born said, “and therefore the taxpayers of Minneapolis should not be the only folks who support Target Center.”

But the request has faced an uphill battle at the Legislature.

“I think the dilemma there is, those things become controversial,” said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the House Capital Investment Committee. “What should be the team’s responsibility?”

Hausman noted that the Minnesota Wild are paying back the state loan that helped pay for construction of their home, the Xcel Energy Center, but the Minnesota Timberwolves are “under no such obligation,” which rankles some legislators.

“I as a St. Paul person am probably not too anxious to do even more (for Target Center) when I know the team in my town got a loan they have to pay back, but the Timberwolves have no similar obligation,” she said.

While Target Center has its share of needs, the building hasn’t exactly been ignored. The city has spent $14 million since 2003 on seating, scoreboard and roof improvements, among other building upgrades, according to city documents.

Last fall, the city unveiled the arena’s new 2.5-acre green roof. The city used $5.3 million from the Target Center Capital Account to replace 30 roofs that were near the end of their 20-year life spans.

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