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Tempest brewing over huge advertising sign being erected on Target Center — facing Target Field

This composite is a representation of what the sign might look like to Twins fans.
Courtesy of Lisa Goodman
This composite is a representation of what the sign might look like to Twins fans.

Twins president Dave St. Peter calls it “an ambush on the ballpark.” Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman calls it, well, I can’t say in print what she calls it. Dan Kenney, director of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, isn’t happy either.

The object of their wrath is a huge advertising sign that the Minnesota Timberwolves are erecting on the outside of Target Center. By next week the sign will overlook Target Plaza and dominate the signature skyline view from the new Twins’ ballpark.

Apparently there’s nothing that the city, the Twins or the ballpark authority can do to stop it. Although the city owns Target Center, the Timberwolves control the right to erect signs on the outside of the arena — and to collect revenue from them. The new sign’s size (2,800 square feet) and design are within the limits allowed on buildings in the Hennepin-First Avenue entertainment district.

The sign advertizes Sanford Health, which operates large hospitals in South Falls, S.D., and Fargo, N.D., and has branch health-care operations in six states.

Says Goodman: “The city pays $6 million a year in debt service on Target Center, we pay $1.6 million a year in operating losses, and this year we’ll pay $3.5 million in capital improvements to the building. And this is how we get treated? … This is one of many things that we and the Twins agree on.”

St. Peter says: “While the Twins always understood an ambush on the ballpark was possible, the sheer size of the proposed signage is shocking. We feel particularly bad about how this signage dominates the new civic gathering place known as Target Plaza. Needless to say it’s disappointing considering the large private investment to create this dynamic celebration of public art, which was in essence a gift to the city of Minneapolis.”

Kenney says: “The ballpark authority was thrilled to partner with the Twins, Target and MnDOT to create a dynamic and welcoming public gathering space in downtown Minneapolis at Target Plaza. It’s difficult to see how a 2,800-square-foot billboard adds to these public realm improvements.”

[Update] Timberwolves President Chris Wright said late this afternoon, “We would disagree with those characterizations. We have the authority and the right to take advantage of a terrific development that occurred behind our building. The new ballpark has brought a great deal of opportunity to this part of the Warehouse District and we celebrate that.”

Wright said that Sanford Health is a valued partner with the Wolves in various health, fitness and wellness efforts, including campaigns against diabetes and child obesity. He declined to reveal the amount of revenue the basketball team would get from the Sanford sign.

The team said that the sign’s construction had begun today and that it would be finished in time for next Wednesday’s possible post-season opener at Target Field.

In time for national exposure
That’s just in time for Sanford Health to get noticed by a national TV audience.

The Twins, along with Target and the artists who worked on the plaza, have long worried that advertising signs on Target Center’s exterior could alter the experience for visitors. At least it wasn’t a big Walmart sign, something the team feared most. As it is, the sign competes with Mayo Clinic, one of the ballpark’s advertising sponsors.

The sign represents Sanford Health’s first big marketing presence in the Twin Cities. In 2003, company founder T. Denny Sanford had offered $35 million to the University of Minnesota’s football stadium project, but negotiations broke down and the U ultimately gave naming rights to TCF Bank.

Sanford Health has been active in sports marketing. Last month it gave $10 million to North Dakota State University in Fargo for updating the Bison Sports Arena, the school’s basketball home. Other “health and wellness” gifts are planned for the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, Concordia College in Moorhead and the Great Plains hockey and sports complex in Fargo.

Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/30/2010 - 03:53 pm.

    On some level, “Target Field” is an advertisement for Target. The complaint is that you can see an advertisement from an advertisement?

  2. Submitted by David Willard on 09/30/2010 - 04:04 pm.

    When everything is for sale, including sponsored pitching changes, stolen bases, middle innings, and even politicians, spare me the faux outrage!

  3. Submitted by shaun laden on 09/30/2010 - 04:09 pm.

    When you look at the picture you can easily recognize at least 4 other major advertisements of major corporations bombarding the baseball viewing public. The addition of one advertisement that one professional sports team isn’t cashing in on while another is cashing in is not that alarming.

    As for ruining the public space known as “TARGET[!] Plaza”, the name says enough but it is worth mentioning there are corporate logos all over the plaza.

    If anyone comes out looking sympathetic here it is the city taxpayers who are paying all the money on the TARGET[!] Center while the pro teams have a license to print money.

    Go Twins!

  4. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 09/30/2010 - 04:15 pm.

    I have seats in Section 324 and will be looking right at this.

    Put me down as having no problem with advertising on Target Center, in fact I’ve been hoping for it all year long.

    Target Center is ugly! That white mansard roof needs livening up. I am on record with Dan Kenney saying I’d wouldn’t care if a BP ad went on Target Center, just add some damn color to the thing.

    Also given all the other ads found at TF, one more ain’t gonna detract from the fans experience.

    Sorry Lisa Goodman, If you need one, I’ll give you a list of over 10 downtown problems that you should be upset about before you get all huffy about an ad on Target Center.

  5. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 09/30/2010 - 04:31 pm.

    Two words…GIANT TARP

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 09/30/2010 - 05:07 pm.

    I’m not sure who’s faux outrage is more annoying; from the charmingly naive city councilperson, or the Twins executive who’s seeing someone else get the revenue HIS company ‘deserves’. Give me a break. And as far as your ‘gift’ to Minneapolis? You’re welcome – Hennepin County Taxpayer.

  7. Submitted by David Mindeman on 09/30/2010 - 05:09 pm.

    My gosh, brazen commercialism in sports? What a surprise.

  8. Submitted by Ryan Kronzer on 09/30/2010 - 05:09 pm.

    Actually, it is a giant vinyl sticker. My 6th floor office window in Butler Square stares right at this bad boy.

  9. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/30/2010 - 06:41 pm.

    No doubt the networks covering the Twins’ playoff games will be asking Sanford (and perhaps the sponsors of all Twins’ stadium’s visible ads) to pony up or they will electronically paint over those advertising logos in their broadcasts of the games.

    If Sanford is advertising big in the metro, aimed at the metro, you can look for them to be buying up one or more local hospital/health care systems in the near future. They have been expanding quite aggressively by buying up existing systems.

    Not long ago they bought up the “Meritcare” system which covered the Fargo/Moorhead area and had satellite clinics throughout Eastern North Dakota and Northwestern Minnesota. I don’t know much about their policies or their quality of care, but they have to be making a lot of money somehow, don’t they?

    I can’t help but wonder who, in the metro, will soon have the name “Sanford” plastered all over them.

  10. Submitted by John Farrell on 09/30/2010 - 08:12 pm.

    Because we’d never see any ads at Target field if not for this one…

  11. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 09/30/2010 - 08:19 pm.

    St. Peter, what happened? … Somebody stole base and ran home with your keys?! 🙂

  12. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/01/2010 - 07:06 am.


    I was once a
    tabula rasa,
    for what it’s worth…
    but as we all well
    know, anyone
    can be bought.

  13. Submitted by Paul Scott on 10/01/2010 - 07:48 am.

    Oh please!

    Isn’t the stupid Target logo carved into the limestone behind home plate?

    Minneapolis is such a company town it doesn’t even recognize Target marketing as advertising — its a “corporate partner!”

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/01/2010 - 09:21 am.

    I try to see both sides of any argument. This one truly baffles me. The holder the Twins Stadium advertising rights made a very specific bargain. They control advertising in the ballpark, and the rest of the universe is on it’s own. If they wanted to control the advertising rights to the TWolves arena, they had every right to make an acceptable offer to purchase them. They didn’t make such an offer and they don’t control those rights.

    One argument for building stadiums is the ancillary economic benefit they bring to communities. Whether those benefits justify the cost of building stadiums is hotly disputed, but what can’t be disputed is that some folks benefit when you build a ball park next door to their place of work. Just as the waitresses at Cuzzie’s earn better tips on game nights, so do the owners of Twolves arena see the value of the advertising rights they have to sell go up in value. In each case, the principle used to justify stadium building, whatever it’s merits, is exactly the same.

  15. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/01/2010 - 09:41 am.

    The only thing that is more pathetic than the complaints of Dave St. Peter and the others mentioned is the fact that the Timberwolves have resorted to getting advertising revenue from Twins fans.

  16. Submitted by Erica Mauter on 10/01/2010 - 11:24 am.

    So, Lisa Goodman is just mad that the Timberwolves get the money instead of the money going directly to the city? If the Wolves/Lynx earn ad revenue from this and it helps put them in the black, isn’t that good for the city?

    I really cannot fathom why the huge objection. “Ambush”? Really?

  17. Submitted by Jim Roth on 10/01/2010 - 04:01 pm.

    Set aside all the whining. Are anyone’s legal rights being violated? It seems to me these are all big people and they could have protected against this legally if they took the right steps. Otherwise it’s simply commercialism rum amuck.

  18. Submitted by Amy Sanders on 10/03/2010 - 10:46 am.

    Lisa Goodman can spare me the hand wringing about this when there are real quality of life issues that affect city residents. I don’t think seeing yet another ad in an area with more branding than a Nascar event is something to be outraged about.

    PS: The sign has started to go up. I’d recommend swapping out the Lisa Goodman-provided composite with a photo of what it actually looks like.

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