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Target Center Gets an Inviting Makeover

Exterior rendering of the $97-million renovation of Target Center in Minneapolis
Part of the $97-million renovation of Target Center in Minneapolis will remove unneeded corner stairways. One corner will feature a new a cantilevered, glass box above the entryway. Architectural Alliance/ Sink Combs Dethlefs

Removing excess stairs will bring light and energy back to the dour Minneapolis arena.

June 17, 2014—A lot has changed in downtown Minneapolis since the Target Center, home to the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, first opened in 1990. The surrounding neighborhood has been developed. A state of the art baseball stadium, Target Field, opened across the street. A new multimodal transit hub has opened nearby.

In other words, what used to be the outskirts of the city has been transformed into a destination. “Target Center’s neighborhood has really changed since it was built,” says Tom Hysell, AIA, LEED-AP, BD+C, a principal of Architectural Alliance, the firm that is designing a $97-million renovation of the aging arena. “Target Center was originally built on the edge of downtown and [was] not a very handsome building,” Hysell says. “Now the city has been built up around the building and the arena is more in the core and clearly needs to be renovated.”

Much has changed in the world of sports and entertainment venues in 24 years. The Target Center now hosts some 200 events a year and attracts more than a million visitors from across the upper Midwest. It is also one of the oldest NBA or NHL arenas in the United States. Newer facilities are slicker, more urban, and replete with more amenities. “For its time it was good, but there weren’t any frills,” says Hysell, “and it just doesn’t meet today’s standards for what people expect and what they need for the whole fan experience.”

“One of the things we’re going to do is to make sure there is a great fan experience and connect the building internally and externally,” says Hysell. “The building was built without views to the outside; we will open it up to make it an active building with views from inside the building out to the city and views back into the activity of what’s going on in the inside. The renovated Target Center will be something that the city will be proud of.”

The arena will diversify its mix of seating, adding more club seating and loge suites—small suites with half walls that seat four to six visitors. “We will enhance the suites and improve the experience by providing a variety of suites and clubs and places that all fans can enjoy,” Hysell says.

Ericksen Roed & Associates, of St. Paul, Minnesota, is performing the structural engineering. Jim Roed, P.E., the vice president of structural engineering for the firm, says the question was how to add that “suite-type experience” efficiently. “For example, back when it was built, the ticket lobby was a big two-story area. Well, nobody buys tickets at the venue anymore, so they’ve got a two-story space that they could potentially be adding a second floor [to].” That new space could become a club space or restaurant to add more excitement to the program. And that infill floor will probably be built out of steel, which will make it easier to install a floor into an existing building.

From the street the Target Center is fairly blank and featureless. There is little connection to the surrounding neighborhood, and the concourses don’t offer a real sense of orientation. The arena was focused around one major entrance, which creates a circulation chokepoint. 

Exterior rendering of the Target Center at night

Renovations to Target Center will open up its fortresslike facade,
enabling pedestrians to see into the building and patrons to see
out to the city. Architectural Alliance/
Sink Combs Dethlefs

Engineers and designers working on the project note that it’s hard to know that anything is going on inside the building even when there’s a game or a concert. So the chief mantra of the redevelopment is opening up the building. “The building right now is so solid that you don’t even know where you are,” says Don Dethlefs, AIA, the chief executive officer of the Denver-based architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs. “You’re right in the city and you don’t even where you are because you can’t see out.”

The key to alleviating this problem is reconfiguring the buildings’ stairs. The Target Center is “overstaired,” meaning it was built with more exit stairs than it needed. The new building will update smoke controls and remove some of those stairs at the corners of the arena. The stairs are all cast-in-place in concrete, says Roed, while the exterior facade at the stairwell areas are precast concrete. “There’s an opportunity,” he says, “to remove the concrete stairs and put a new, lighter floor structure in there.”

Removing those stairs will allow designers to open up the corners, and introduce more glass into the facade. Designers are also looking at a new entry feature on the corner of Sixth Street and First Avenue, which could have a cantilevered steel-framed feature with a lot of glass.

“As we can open up some of these spaces, we can make the concourses more spacious, and we also get views out to downtown and Target Field, which is right on the other side of the building,” says Dethlefs. “If you spend the money inside but you never changed the outside, people won’t know,” Dethlefs points out.

Loading areas, which lack storage and have inconvenient elevator access, will be revamped as part of the project, as will locker rooms. The building will be repainted in a darker color to better blend in with the brick warehouses that surround the building. Copper and metallic finishes are planned to liven up the facade and create a more dynamic presence. Inside, Wifi and cellular coverage will be enhanced, as will the center’s video screens.

The arena is set up for both hockey and basketball; there’s an ice sheet on a slab that moved up and down about 6 ft as needed. There are retractable seats on both sides of the courts and at the ends to facilitate the transition from basketball to hockey. And the south end of the arena has many retractable seats that can be removed to create backstage areas for concerts.

There has been discussion, Roed says, of pushing the stage back farther, which could cause the relocation of rigging loads on the roof. It might push those loads further south than they were planned for, testing the capacity of the roof.

The roof comprises a bar joist and metal deck supported by girders that span between major trusses, crossing the short direction of the arena. These main trusses are spaced about 60 ft apart on center. A change to the stage could ultimately affect the main trusses, Roed says, but he adds that it’s more likely to affect some of the subframing. Still, it’s unclear whether this change will be incorporated.

Dethlefs notes that the Target Center has received some upgrades over the years, like new seats and mechanical systems. “But to really start to transform something you need a bigger expenditure.”

Still, the cost of the renovation is only one-fifth of the estimated $500 million it would require to build a new stadium. The cost will be split between the city of Minneapolis, the Timberwolves, and the Minnesota Lynx WNBA team. The facility is owned by the city and operated by AEG.

The project should get under way next year. “I’m hoping it is transformational,” says Dethlefs. “That’s our goal, that people walk in and say, ‘Wow. This is the Target Center?’”



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