SBJ/May 19-25, 2014/Facilities

Timberwolves hire Legends to consult on new premium seats

Don Muret
The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed a short-term consulting deal with Legends to help the team develop and market new premium seat inventory that’s being created by Target Center’s $97 million renovation.

Under the six-month agreement, Legends officials will train the Timberwolves’ sales staff, work with the team to develop new premium options and form a list of prospects to buy those seats, said Ryan Tanke, Minnesota’s senior vice president and chief revenue officer.

Together, they will huddle with sports architect Sink Combs Dethlefs and its local partner, Architectural Alliance, to create premium seat destinations as part of the arena upgrades. The two firms recently won the project, and the Minneapolis City Council last week approved their contract.

Details of the $97M Target Center renovation, shown in a rendering, are being worked out.
Photo by: ARCHITECTURAL ALLIANCE / SINK COMBS DETHLEFS

The Timberwolves are responsible for selling those seats after new concepts are established by the end of 2014, Tanke said.

Initially, the team has discussed building a new club facing the stage end, doubling the number of courtside club seats and moving the lounge reserved for floor-seat holders from suite level to event level (SportsBusiness Journal, Nov. 18-24).

At this point, nothing is set in stone until Legends comes on board, Tanke said.

Driving the agreement was Legends’ experience developing successful go-to-market strategies at other sports properties, he said. It was Tanke who reached out to the consultant for assistance.

Chad Estis, Legends’ Dallas-based president of global sales, and Mike Behan, the firm’s vice president of sales and marketing in New York, will fly to Minneapolis for training sessions and participate in weekly conference calls, Estis said.

Tanke knows both sales executives through their old NBA ties. Estis worked seven years for the Cleveland Cavaliers before joining the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. He joined Legends in 2009.

Behan served as the NBA’s senior director of team marketing and business operations before joining Legends in October 2011. The deal could include Legends’ input for developing a new marketing center at the arena or across the street at the Timberwolves’ new practice facility, which is to open this fall. No decisions have been made on that project, Tanke said.

Legends has had one other NBA deal, a consulting agreement with Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.

> FIVE EASY PIECES: AEG Global Partnerships has pulled off an impressive feat, selling five naming-rights deals across five continents at buildings it operates.

Over the past six months, AEG’s marketing arm has completed deals for SSE Center in London, formerly Wembley Arena; Zhongsheng Center in Dalian, China; Allianz Parque in São Paulo; Qantas Credit Union Arena in Sydney; and Arvest Bank Theatre in Kansas City, the old Midland Theatre.

The annual value of those deals runs from the low six figures for the historic concert venue in Kansas City to mid-seven figures for the new 45,000-seat soccer stadium in Brazil, home to the Palmeiras futbol team, said Todd Goldstein, AEG’s chief revenue officer.

In China, it’s the first naming-rights deal signed with a state-owned entity, Goldstein said. Zhongsheng, a Chinese automotive company, put its name on an 18,000-seat arena that opened in October.

AEG officials expect the facility to join the rotation for NBA preseason games in China with arenas that the company runs in Beijing and Shanghai, Goldstein said.

The Qantas deal is a bit different, he said. It covers short-term naming rights for an existing arena scheduled to be torn down in two years as part of the Darling Harbour development in Australia.

Developers are in the early stages of forming the harbor’s entertainment district and to this point, they have not determined whether a new arena is planned. If it does move forward, Qantas has first rights to that piece of the development, Goldstein said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.


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