SBJ/September 19-25, 2011/Facilities

Target agrees to 3-year extension of Minneapolis arena naming rights

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Target Corp. is expected to announce this week that it has agreed to keep its name on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ and WNBA Lynx’s home arena for three more seasons, extending until 2014 professional sports’ longest-running venue naming-rights relationship.

The previous deal expired Aug. 31.

Financial terms of the extension were not revealed, but Dan Griffis, Target’s director of strategic partnerships, events and lifestyle marketing, said the terms were comparable to the company’s previous agreement. Minneapolis-based Target has paid the teams’ ownership group about $30 million since the original naming-rights deal began in late 1989 for the arena, which opened in September 1990 — or an average of about $1.5 million a season.

NANCY KUEHN / MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL BUSINESS JOURNAL
The city of Minneapolis is seeking state funds to renovate one of the NBA’s oldest arenas.
The metrics have changed since the original naming-rights deal, Griffis said, noting that brand awareness in the market is less of an issue than it was a generation ago. In addition to its presence with the Wolves and Lynx, Target sponsors the NHL Wild, the MLB Twins (including naming rights at the club’s new ballpark) and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

“Nearly all our sports programs are a community play,” Griffis said. “This was really about the city of Minneapolis.”

Target Center is one of the NBA’s oldest arenas. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced in February that the city was seeking up to $150 million in state money to fund an arena renovation. Five months later, Minnesota’s state government shut down for 20 days amid a budget battle.

The Timberwolves’ lease runs through the 2024-25 NBA season. The arena is owned by the city and operated by AEG.

Timberwolves President Chris Wright said the physical condition of the arena will play a critical role when it comes time for the two sides to revisit the new three-year deal.

“Target demands an outstanding customer experience in all their stores, and they would like that to be true in the arena,” he said. “Three years allows all parties to work together to get our building to where it really needs to be.”

Target’s other major sports properties include a 22-year sponsorship of IndyCar Target Chip Ganassi Racing (drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti) and a decade-long partnership of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Team Target (driver Juan Pablo Montoya). The company also sponsors Olympic gold medalist Shaun White (snowboarding) and several other action sports athletes.

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