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Official Review by Blake Benzel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When it comes to quality places to see sporting events, the Twin Cities have you covered. The Xcel Energy Center is consistently ranked as one of the top arena experiences in the National Hockey League, Target Field is one of the gems of Major League Baseball and the Minnesota Vikings’ new football mecca will be arriving within a few years. The stadium that consistently gets overlooked, however, is the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves – the Target Center. Even I regularly turn my nose up at the building, having called it a dump on more than one occasion. But is that criticism warranted? Certainly, it is the oldest of the professional stadiums in the Twin Cities and is in desperate need of updates, but have I been too hard on the Target Center? That’s the question I was looking at when I paid the building a visit.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Let's be honest. When you go to a sporting event, you expect to pay for overpriced food, no matter how good it is, and the Target Center is no different - at least, in that regard. What takes me by surprise, however, is just how expensive a lot of their higher end fare costs. A simple pork or chicken burrito is $9, as are chicken tenders, while a regular, single-patty burger is $9.50. You can upgrade the burger to a double, a triple, a double-double or a triple-double, the price increasing with each up to a whopping $17.50 for the last one. Make no mistake, the triple-double gives you a lot of food. But $17.50 worth? I'm not so sure.
There are other burger options - the Lodge, California and Cowboy - that are $13.50 apiece, but let's put that in perspective. A burger at a sporting event that is good, but not going to blow your socks off is $13.50. Meanwhile, you can visit Burger Jones in uptown (which is, admittedly, a trek from the arena) and get a burger that will blow you away for anywhere from $9-$10. Yes, you expect to pay more for food at the arena. But, in this case, is it worth it? Not in my opinion.
To be fair, these aren't the only options. The drinks are decently priced, and they have other food on the menu. In fact, they have a wide variety of options for both food and drink that surprised me. From specialty foods like bratwurst, BBQ and Cuban sandwiches to a stand where you can order craft beers, to a cart that serves a local favorite beer, Surly; you don't lack options when you go there. On top of that, the Target Center has one option that is becoming more common at sporting events - gluten free concessions.
Every stadium's food is overpriced but, in many cases, the overpayment is able to be overlooked by the quality of the food. In the case of the Target Center, I can't say that's entirely true. The food isn't terrible, but it's not the best that you can get in an arena either.
Despite the Wolves' recent struggles, the atmosphere of the arena is still very upbeat and fun. The music in the arena is handled by a live DJ and the arena announcer is quite entertaining as well. Combine that with a young team that has excited their fan base and a prodigal son returning home and you have a fairly electric atmosphere despite a relatively empty arena. They have a dance team that performs during breaks and they have no end of in-game entertainment. All of these little extras make Target Center a pretty entertaining place to take in a game.
The biggest upside that the Target Center has is its neighborhood. Sharing a neighborhood with Target Field means that when businesses started trying to get Twins fans' business, the Target Center reaped the benefits as well. Within walking distance of the Target Center are a handful of terrific restaurants. Fogo de Chao, the Pourhouse, and Pizza Luce are just the beginning. Downtown Minneapolis has a wealth of restaurants to enjoy before the game, ranging from pricey to inexpensive, any number of which could scratch any itch a foodie could have.
The Nicollet Mall isn't too far away if you want to do some shopping before the game, and there are a great number of hotels around the area to stay at if you're coming from out of town, or just don't want to make the trip home when the game ends.
If you're looking for libations before or after the game, O'Donovan's, Kieran's, Sneaky Pete's and Aqua are all within walking distance, leaving you with plenty to do around the arena.
Minnesota sports fans tend to be a little more reserved than other fans. At least, that's the case when things are going poorly for their team. When things are going well? Well:
While Jiggly Boy didn't make an appearance at the game I attended, the fans were relatively engaged for the small amount that were there. As you're going to get at any sporting event, there are people that are there for the social outing. But, for the most part, there are passionate Wolves fans who know the players, know the game and know the league. There are constant calls for the crowd to get louder, but the truth is that there isn't a whole lot of noise to be made, because it is a relatively empty building, but they do their best. It's hard to judge a teams' fans when a team is down and this is something I would expect only to grow as the team continues to improve, but the fans that are there are fantastic.
Just off of a handful of bus routes, not to mention the Lightrail, the Target Center is easily accessible. There are also numerous parking ramps that surround the arena as well as parking on the street, if you can find it. The bottom line? If you want to go to a Wolves game at the Target Center, you're not going to have a problem getting there at all.
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Right now, Wolves tickets might be the best buy in town. You can get a 200 Level ticket for anywhere from $15 to $44, depending on where you want to sit and what game you want to see, and a 100 Level ticket from $36 to $81, again depending on your seating preference and the game. When you consider the price of other tickets around the Twin Cities, seeing a game at the Target Center certainly seems more palatable.
As far as a return on your investment? Well, there's a reason why the tickets are priced to sell. The chances that you'll see a Timberwolves win seem increasingly slim, and the food, while passable, isn't always the most satisfying. The in-game experience, however, is fantastic. There's no lack of excitement surrounding the team with their young stars and the entertainment once you find your seat, while dated, is still enjoyable. That said, some updates to the building could make this a much better ticket to get but, until that point, it's not the best place to see a game, but it's not the worst either.
Where the Target Center struggles immensely is its extras. For everything the arena has going for it, it's still extremely dated and in extreme need of the makeover that has been in the works and the hope is that it will be underway and, at least partly complete by the 2015-2016 season. We can't wait for the makeover, however, to pass judgment on what the Target Center does offer in the way of extras.
The gluten free options in their concessions is a huge extra that I've not seen offered many other places. They also have a program that is called "Buddy Bands," with which parents register their children and they are given a band that notes the child's seat location so that they can be returned by an usher if they're separated. There's also a Lifetime Fitness on site, so you can go workout prior to the game if you'd like. Beyond that, however, any extras that the Target Center offers aren't readily accessible or apparent.
In all, I have to admit I went into my visit to the Target Center with very low expectations. I had my preconceived notions about the arena and I expected to have a disappointing experience. I have to say, however, that I was pleasantly surprised by my visit to the Target Center. It was much cleaner than I remember it being and I could tell the work that was being put into make it a pleasant experience despite the dire need for updates to the building. While there's certainly a need for improvements (the team's record being among the biggest issues), I was not disappointed at all by my visit and even walked away thinking to myself that I'd like to go back with my kids. All-in-all, the Target Center has aged well and, while not the best arena, I certainly can recommend it for a good time.
Member Review by paul
Twenty years ago, the Target Center opened its doors and provided fans with a great downtown facility to watch professional basketball. After playing its inaugural season down the road at the Metrodome, the Timberwolves played the 1990-91 season at the Target Center, posting a 29-53 record.
There have been eight playoff appearances and one division title in the franchise's existence, but frankly the Target Center has been less about the quality of the team on the floor, and more about the location. Now, more than ever, with the opening of the Twins' Target Field, the Timberwolves are located in the middle of a great downtown, with everything one would need to have for an enjoyable evening. Now, the only thing that's missing is some winning basketball. A minor detail.
Member Review by Scott Bultman on Dec 08, 2012
Target Center in downtown Minneapolis opened in 1990 and is home to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves are in their 25th season of existence; you are reminded of this from the commemorative ticket stubs to various signs and billboards around the stadium. This 19,500 seat arena offers plenty to do for the family and there isn’t a bad seat for a basketball game. Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, there is plenty to do inside and outside.
Member Review by scottb_1980 on Jan 05, 2014
This building is pretty much built with the same premise as the Metrodome: see a game and get out. No bells or whistles, expensive food, and an unwelcoming concourse. Lots of concrete on the outer edges of the stadium. Two things I like about it... cheap tickets due to lack of fans and no bad seats in the building. The promotions team tries hard and keep your attention during timeouts. My favorite is the eating challenges that they do as mentioned in this review. The last game I went to, they had a fruitcake eating challenge. A 1.5 pound fruitcake that had to be eaten before the end of the quarter.
700 North 1st Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403
80 9th St S
Minneapolis, MN 55402
600 N 1st Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403