Having driven by the outside of this venue on our first two visits, we did not see too much
to get jacked up about - a typical early 90s grey box arena downtown, and our thoughts
going in were, "rip the ticket, enjoy some suds, see the game and check it off". So weren't
we surprised that the City of Minneapolis and the Timberwolves served up an experience
which really exceeded our expectations!
Opened in 1990, the Target Center is the home of the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves and
the WNBA Minnesota Lynx. This facility serves as the second home for the T-Wolves, who
began play at the Metrodome, obviously in some sort of curtained off seating
configuration. At one point the NHL Minnesota Wild considered making this their home as
well, before opting to go to their own venue a few miles away in downtown St. Paul.
Getting to the venue
The Target Center is located in the west end of downtown Minneapolis, and is one of the
anchors of a bustling and vibrant downtown core. Easy expressway access can be had off
of I-94 and I-394. Parking can get to be a bit of a problem, though there are several parking
garages behind the Center, all interconnected via a system of enclosed overhead
walkways which take you into the building. Numerous surface lots are within easy walking
distance - $7 to $10 is the norm, but keep in mind, we are also talking other downtown
attractions - theatres, offices and restaurants to compete for the spaces. So our advice is
get down early or park a few blocks away and then navigate the overhead walkway system
to get you into the building.
Outside the venue
We are talking here about a clean, bright and bustling downtown - immediately to the north
is the city's Warehouse District, an area of turn of the century buildings now being
refurbished and already home to offices, living units, art galleries and antique shops. The
main downtown core lies to the east, and just a block away is a vibrant theatre district with
lit marquees and adjoining businesses catering to the entertainment crowd. Go two more
blocks and you will find Nicollet Mall, a quasi-pedestrian mall stretching north and south for
blocks, with office and retail centers as far the eye can see, all connected by an elaborate
second floor enclosed walkway system so one never has to go outside when Minnesota's
cold weather descends upon this town. Looking for a place to eat before or after the
game? The choice of taverns, eateries, brew pubs, steakhouses and night clubs is virtually
unlimited. Upscale and midscale hotels are also in abundance and you can feel the pulse of
this exciting city just by walking around. And that's not all as a huge
retail/entertainment/hotel tower simply known as "Block E" is under construction just
across the from the Target Center and will have pedestrian bridges linking this fabulous
facility right into the arena itself.
The Target center itself is erected from curb to curb with no public plazas or open space,
and, for that matter, scant pedestrian space. The building is octagon shaped, colored grey
granite with several "Target Center" billboard marquees. At night the crown of the building
is attractively floodlit, and the building is accented with vertical red and blue neon strips.
There are two entrances to the building - the main entrance and lobby in the front, and in
the back is a secondary entrance which is accessed from the walkway system.
A small but really gorgeous lobby greets you as you walk in. The walls and ceiling are
darkened, and decorated in an attractive neon sculpture which blinks and changes colors
and is very pleasing to the eye. All the posts in the lobby are emblazoned with star shaped
plaques highlighting the names and dates of the stars who performed here. From the lobby
you enter the arena to the right, and take two escalators which then whisk you to the main
This is a two concourse facility, with primary access up and down via a double escalator
tower. The concourses themselves are very wide and incredibly easy to navigate. Keep in
mind that this building opened around the same time as the NBA venues in Phoenix and
Salt Lake City, and before a lot of attention was given to mundane matters such as square
footage in common areas. Yet here it all works well, and the concourses themselves, while
initially grey and austere, are painted with bright red accents and further decorated with
colorful directional signage, continuous ad panels and concession marquees, all backlit
and hanging diagonally, and also colorful flags.
The seating bowl
We are talking a two deck seating bowl here with wine red seats, and the upper and lower
levels are separated with a level of suites, served by its own concourse and hospitality
areas for purchasing food and drink. Fans enter the seating areas not by walking through
narrow aisled alcoves but wide entryways that directly abut the concourses. The seating
bowl is centered by a four sided scoreboard featuring diamondvision video boards which
were not all that great for viewing and which have certainly been supplanted by better
technologies. Backlit ad panels are arranged nicely along the balcony around the ends, and
along each sideline balcony are synchronized changeable ad panels. Interspersed are dot
matrix boards scrolling out of town scores and game information.
By the way, the Target Center also houses a membership health club, which is served by its
own private entrance and is not a part of the arena itself.
While nothing really stood out here other than the usual ballpark dreck, we do have to say
at least that the menu was pretty diverse and offered lots of choices. Two of the beer
stands featured the local brews - of course Leinie's Red is our favorite in this part of the
world. No main team store here, but plenty of satellite merchandise kiosks interspersed
throughout the arena corridors.
Three banners of note hang here - the first retired number of the Timberwolves is that of
#2, Malik Sealy, who died last year in a tragic car accident. The second banner lists the
seven Hall of Famers who were members of the Minneapolis Lakers, this city's first NBA
team and its only link to basketball glory thus far. The third proclaims the team's attendance
record set in the 1989-90 season in the Metrodome. More on all this later.
No division, conference or championship titles banners for the Timberwolves - this
franchise has yet to win any playoff series. Could this be the year?
Slam dunk - the Timberwolves "Four Pack" promotion. Easily the best we have seen. Keep
in mind, this team does very well at the gate - the entire lower bowl is sold out to season
ticket holders, yet props to the Timberwolves for not resting on their laurels, but promoting
ticket sales to keep the house full.
The T-Wolves 4 pack is good for Tuesday night games - for $65, you get 4 tickets, four
sodas, four slices of pizza, four tamales, four coupons good for a Dairy Queen cone, a
program and a $10 certificate redeemable at a local food chain. Are you kidding!!?? How
can you NOT take advantage of a bargain like this? We've seen these 4 pack promotions
elsewhere, but this one ranks as the best value of all.
Slam dunk - To the Minnesota Timberwolves for hanging a banner to honor the icons of the
Minneapolis Lakers. Yes, NBA basketball was played here before the T-Wolves hit town,
and the Lakers owned the NBA for much of the 50s (5 NBA titles in 6 years). Younger
generations attending basketball games will always have the reminder that their city has a
proud NBA heritage. Which brings us to...
Foul, a technical and an ejection - to the adjoining ridiculous banner promoting the
Timberwolves as the NBA attendance champions when they played in the large and hollow
Metrodome. Didn't some radio station buy up an ocean of tickets to the last game to make
this all happen? Here again, a team hasn't had much history on the court, so let's invent
something silly and hang it in the rafters. Well, Wild Fans are "#1", and Florida Panther Fans
have "The Best Point Total for an Expansion Team" and the Lightning have the "Best
Attendance at a Playoff Game". We thought we saw it all, but now the Ultimate Sports Road
Trip adds this banner to the list.
Assist - to the nice folks at the Guest Services office of the Minnesota Timberwolves. We
went in for some basic information, and walked out with a cool souvenir, maps of downtown
and all the info we needed.
Slam dunk - Coming soon to the Target Center is a statue to be unveiled of legendary NBA
icon and Minneapolis Laker George Mikan.
On this night, the Ultimate Sports Road Trip extended its home team winning streak to 10
games, as the Timberwolves almost blew a huge lead early on, but some clutch free throw
shooting and a huge basket by Wally Szczerbiak in the last minute gave the needed
cushion for the win. Our Karma continues!
As we stated, our expectations were low, so weren't we pleasantly surprised to find a
clean, bright and spacious arena, in an exciting and alive downtown setting, with plenty of
things to do in the area, and a great crowd on hand to support the home team. The Target
Center is already an "old venue", even though it was built only 12 years ago, so the newer
amenities - brewhouses, bars, club seats, interactive games, won't be found here. Yet put
it all together and it all works well here - one of the better NBA experiences and a good
place to visit. Our best suggestion is to give yourself enough time to experience this
terrific jewel of a city and all it has to offer. Three stars for the T'wolves, and high three at
Food and team store 5
Scoreboard and electronics 3
Fan support 9
Location and neighborhood 8
Banners and history 4
In game entertainment 6
Concourses/fan comfort 6
Bonus: George Mikan statue 1; Pedestrian overpass links to downtown 2
Total points: 57