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Volume 20 No. 46
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Wolves bring in veteran execs to sell new premium seating

Don Muret
The Minnesota Timberwolves have hired three veterans in ticketing and sponsorship sales as the team prepares to market new inventory tied to a $97 million renovation of Target Center.

Corey Breton, the Timberwolves’ vice president of ticket sales; Steve Mullins, vice president of corporate partnerships; and Jake Vernon, partnership sales manager, have all come on board in Minneapolis during the last few months.

Breton, most recently with the Atlanta Hawks, oversees all aspects of ticket and premium sales for the Timberwolves and Lynx, said Ryan Tanke, Minnesota’s senior vice president and chief revenue officer, who previously held that position.

Target Center will get a $97 million renovation.
Mullins came from the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he filled the same role.

Vernon was formerly president of Get Real Sports Sales, an Indianapolis firm he launched in March 2011 that several major league and college teams, including the Timberwolves, have used to outsource season-ticket sales. Before going out on his own, Vernon spent 12 years as the Indiana Pacers’ vice president of ticket sales and services.

Together, they join an organization in Minneapolis poised to capitalize on upgrades to Target Center that could include building a new club in the north end, opposite the Treasure Island Resort & Casino VIP Terrace at stage end on the arena’s south side, Tanke said.

The Timberwolves also would like to double the number of seats connected to the 250-seat Lexus Courtside Club and relocate the lounge reserved for floor-seat holders from the suite level down to the event level, he said.

Those two components are on the Timberwolves’ wish list but no decisions have been made on specific improvements, Tanke said. Last week, the City Council approved using $50 million in sales tax dollars to help fund upgrades for the publicly owned facility.

The Timberwolves are contributing $43 million in private financing in exchange for extending their lease through 2032. Target Center operator AEG has committed to paying $5.5 million for the project.

The team and the city expect to jointly select an architect by the end of December to design the renovation, said Ted Johnson, the Timberwolves’ senior vice president and chief marketing officer. The project will require 18 to 24 months.

Meanwhile, Get Real Sports still has deals in place to sell season tickets for Butler, Xavier and Wright State for men’s college basketball, said Vernon, its former president. No decision has been made whether to sell the company or keep it running, he said.

> FOOTBALL AT DAYTONA? Daytona International Speedway officials are pitching the track’s huge infield as a key piece of the game-day experience during talks with major schools to schedule a college football game at the NASCAR track.

Joie Chitwood, Daytona’s president at the International Speedway Corp. property, is in the midst of conversations with athletic directors and networks to book an early-season game at the track after the facility’s $400 million renovation is completed in 2016.

The infield at the 2 1/2-mile track is large enough to house both the game itself and tailgating festivities for both teams, according to Chitwood.

“Florida is a big recruiting ground for a lot of schools, and when you tell people that in Daytona you could have the world’s biggest tailgate party in the infield as part of the college football experience, it seems to catch their attention,” Chitwood said.

Last month, Bristol Motor Speedway announced it would play host to a Tennessee-Virginia Tech game in 2016 at the 160,000-seat track. Daytona, as part of the facility’s renovation, will see its capacity shrink to 101,000 seats from 147,000.

Daytona has not come up with a total seat number for its football game, but “with all of our camping options in the infield, there is no other venue that can offer this [amount of space],” Chitwood said.

As it stands now, Daytona does not have a deal in place. “It’s finding out what teams want to see out of it, how TV plays into it in terms of conferences and network partnerships,” he said. “We have to navigate that minefield a little bit.”

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