While the construction of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings remains a political football, the long-planned renovation of the Target Center arena in downtown Minneapolis is drawing less attention.
City leaders have been negotiating behind the scenes with the Minnesota Timberwolves and arena manager AEG for more than a year on the $100 million project. But now city and team officials say that they are hoping to have an agreement hammered out by the end of December. The city of Minneapolis owns Target Center.
“Our goal is to have an agreement by the end of the year,” Jeremy Hanson Willis, executive director of the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development department, told Twin Cities Business. “Everybody is focused on getting it done. I am confident that we will reach an agreement and be able to move forward.”
A team official echoed that timetable.
“We believe along with the city that being able to close out a deal by the end of the year is absolutely doable,” said Ted Johnson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the Timberwolves. “We feel from the team’s side that we’ve made great progress.”
Hanson Willis said that the city is slated to pay about $50 million of the arena’s renovation cost, with the other half coming from the Timberwolves and AEG. Johnson said that the team would be contributing a larger share than AEG to the project. The agreement that is being worked on would specify the scope of the project and the specific contributions from each party involved.
The state legislation approving the new $975 million Vikings stadium, signed by Governor Mark Dayton in May 2012, included a provision allowing the city to redirect some city sales tax revenue to pay for the Target Center renovation.
If a renovation deal is worked out by the end of the year, Hanson Willis said that construction could start in the summer of 2014 and be complete by the end of 2015. Target Center will remain open for games and other events during the renovation, Johnson noted.
Target Center, which cost $104 million to build, opened in October 1990. The city acquired it in March 1995 for about $80 million when the team’s original owners, who also owned the arena, ran into financial trouble. City spokesman Casper Hill said that the city's current outstanding debt on Target Center is $53.45 million.
The overhaul is intended to freshen up the aging arena.
“We’re looking to deliver the amenities that fans have come to expect at other facilities that have been built in town,” Johnson said.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s third term ends at the end of year. Hanson Willis noted that the Target Center renovation has been important to Rybak, who is not seeking reelection.
“The mayor has made it very clear,” Hanson Willis said. “It’s absolutely high on his list to get done.”