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SBJ/March 29 - April 4, 2004/Facilities
NBA City targets second site
Published March 29, 2004
The developer for the NBA City theme restaurant wants to invest $4 million to build a similar facility at Target Center in Minneapolis, five years after the first and only location opened at Universal Orlando CityWalk.
Ralph Burnet, a Twin Cities-based real estate developer, part-owner of the Timberwolves and chairman of NBA City, said he discussed the project last week with David Stern during the NBA commissioner's visit to Minneapolis. "He is very high on it," Burnet said.
"It's not official, but we're definitely on the drawing board," he said. "We have a verbal blessing, but the city would have to approve it. If all the stars line up, we'll build it this summer. "
NBA City combines video and interactive games with a restaurant and retail store in a setting that embraces the league's history and captures the architectural design of classic arenas from its early days.
"We're pursuing opportunities to expand the NBA City concept internationally, and in the right situations, domestically," said Matt Bourne, the league's director of public relations.
The Timberwolves and public officials in Minneapolis view NBA City as a catalyst to revitalize 15-year-old Target Center, Burnet said. The arena has been in a battle for high-profile events with 4-year-old Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, home to the NHL Minnesota Wild.
Target Center concessionaire Aramark is in the midst of a one-year contract to operate the 14,000-square-foot space designated for NBA City. "It functions primarily as a bar. It's not a thriving enterprise," said Timberwolves President Rob Moor.
The Timberwolves are aggressively planning for improvements now that they have tentatively assumed management of the building. The lease with the city has 21 years remaining.
Last week, the city council's Community Development Committee approved a transfer in facility operations from Clear Channel Entertainment to Midwest Entertainment Group, a partnership with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and The Nederlander Co. of Los Angeles. The full city council votes on the measure Friday.
The team would operate the venue and Dana Warg, Nederlander senior vice president and former Target Center general manager, would book events other than basketball.
Burnet's goal is to build free-standing NBA City venues in New York, Dallas and a Disneyland location in Anaheim. He is seeking a joint venture for restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, China.
Burnet signed a development agreement with the NBA in 2000 after Hard Rock Cafe International, the league's original partner, relinquished the rights to NBA City. He assumes the financial risk and shares profits with the league.
The original plan to develop several NBA City properties was put on hold by the 2001 terrorist attacks, he said. The Orlando site opened in 1999, before Burnet assumed ownership.