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From comfier seats to a more open feel, Target Center takes on a 21st-century look

Lots of windows have been added the Target Center likes these in the main concourse. Photographed during media tour of the Target Center renovation on Monday, October 16, 2017. (Special to the Pioneer Press/John Autey)1 / 4
The new Beer Garden at the Target Center. Photographed during media tour of the Target Center renovation on Monday, October 16, 2017. (Special to the Pioneer Press/John Autey)2 / 4
The Minnesota Timberwolves logo on the ceiling of the round locker room at Target Center. Photographed during media tour of the Target Center renovation on Monday, October 16, 2017. (Special to the Pioneer Press/John Autey)3 / 4
The 1st Avenue and 6th Street main entrance of the Target Center. Photographed during media tour of the Target Center renovation on Monday, October 16, 2017. (Special to the Pioneer Press/John Autey)4 / 4

MINNEAPOLIS—There are thousands of reasons to like the $140 million Target Center renovation, which, for all intents and purposes, is complete heading into the Timberwolves' home opener against Utah on Friday — and those are just the seats.

They'll take the place of the previous seats, which could have been fairly described as ratty and uncomfortable.

"Even friends and family complained about the seats," Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad said. "It's a thing where everybody wants to be comfortable. I think (the renovation is) going to bring us a lot more of a fan base, and this place just looks great."

Ted Johnson, the Chief Strategy Officer of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, said there were questions from the outside years ago when the decision was made to renovate Target Center, which opened in 1990, rather than rebuild.

" 'It's still Target Center, it's this big concrete bunker, what can you really do with it?' " Johnson said, paraphrasing fans' assessment of Target Center. "But I think people are pleasantly surprised when they see how we've been able to open it up."

Indeed, placing a few windows throughout the concourse makes Target Center look bigger, even while staying in its same smallish footprint in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The atrium that houses a new lobby and a bar on the club level look out into the city, making the view out of — and into — the arena more pleasant.

The new Lexus Club, located on the arena level, delivers an all-inclusive experience — including valet parking, food and drinks — that rivals the Twins' Champions Club for members who purchase any one of the 500 Lexus Clubs seats located in the first few rows of the arena.

There are plenty of improvements all fans can enjoy. A second entrance, located off the skyway just steps from parking Ramp A, should ease walking congestion before and after games. It has gates with the ability to handle 25 to 33 percent of the arena's new capacity of 18,798.

Just off the main concourse on the south end of the building is a beer garden that overlooks the court. There, fans can gather and watch the game, either from a bar stool or standing. The concourses are bigger, better lit and feature design details such as wood beams in the ceiling that help bring the arena into the 21st century.

The court design, featuring a heavy dose of navy blue around the edges of the floor to balance out the wood, is simple and sleek.

And then there are the features that benefit the players. Previously, the Timberwolves did pregame strength training in a hallway. It wasn't uncommon for media members and game operations personnel to have to step around players doing ab work. And the team got dressed in a space that was about the size of a nice walk-in closet, which was supposedly a locker room.

Asked to sum up what Target Center was before, Muhammad responded: "I would just say messy."

That has changed. The Timberwolves' new locker room is spacious and clean, with a circular design that creates more open room. Even the visiting locker room, which the Lynx will use during the WNBA season, is now bigger with better lockers.

In between the two locker-room areas is a full-on training and weight room complete with tables for the training staff to work on players; weights and exercise equipment; and hot tubs. Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves coach and president of basketball operations, said, "It's hard to believe it's the same place."

"I love it. I love it," he said. "Not only having the court, the arena, it's amazing what it's become. We're very excited about that. I don't know how they pulled it off. The construction people did an amazing job. I think we'd all be in agreement. The outside, the inside, the locker room, court, Lexus Club, 612 Club, it's unbelievable."

Johnson said the arena will help the team attract and retain top-level players and likely play some role in helping the Wolves get back on a path toward success after more than a decade of futility. Thibodeau said the team is getting all the things it needs, "so we have to take full advantage of them."

"This place has actually some life in it," Muhammad said. "The locker room and everything, it just makes you not want to leave. It makes you want to keep continuing to work and getting better, and that's the main thing for us right now. We're blessed to have such a nice renovation, and we can't wait to kick off the season being here."

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