Minnesota Monitor: This green roof brought to you by…

MINNESOTA MONITOR

by Dan Haugen

A proposal to put a green roof on top of the Target Center is still hanging in midair with all the uncertainty of a Timberwolves’ jump shot.

City staff and consultants looking into the option told the Minneapolis City Council’s environment committee Monday they would need another month to complete their research.

But both the city, which owns Target Center, and the arena’s management, AEG Facilities, have been in talks with a local sports marketing company that specializes in finding corporate sponsors to offset the cost of doing green initiatives.

GreenMark is the brainchild of Mark Andrew, a former Hennepin County commissioner who chaired the state’s DFL party during the 1990s. Since leaving a public relations firm just over a year ago, he’s been working to build a once-unlikely alliance between sports and environment.

“We have several large organizations that we have spoken with about the possibility of doing a green sponsorship at Target Center,” Andrew said.

Andrew has had preliminary discussions with both AEG and city staff, he said in an interview. His name also came up at Monday’s council meeting when Council Member Lisa Goodman asked whether he’d been contacted. The city’s acting business development manager, Kristin Guild, confirmed that they had a conversation about sponsorship opportunities.

In a report to the committee, Guild said consultants at Leo A. Daly Co. are studying five possible options for the Target Center roof, which is nearly two decades old and scheduled for replacement. Of the choices, three are green roofs of varying depth — two-inch, three-inch and six-inch layers — each of which have different weights and advantages.

Green roofs are roofs topped with a layer of lightweight soil that’s seeded with plants and grasses. They have many aesthetic and environmental benefits, including storm water management, but they weigh more than conventional roofs and can sometimes require costly reinforcements.

A report to the City Council in October 2006 by Kandiyohi Development Partners (PDF) concluded that a green roof might be feasible on Target Center. The city then hired the engineering and architectural firm Leo A. Daly to further evaluate the possibility. Leo A. Daly has been the city’s primary engineering consultant for Target Center during most of the arena’s lifetime, but its local office has never done a green roof project.

When the firm reported in December that a green roof was impossible because of the weight of heavy lighting and sound equipment hanging from the ceiling, it prompted a scolding from Council Member Goodman and instructions by the entire committee to come back in January with more information about their options.

“I don’t know how you can outright say it’s just not feasible,” Council Member Scott Benson said. “That doesn’t make any sense to me. I can see how it might be more expensive. I can see how there might be more cost-effective (solutions), but to outright say it’s not feasible just seems odd.”

Guild said the city’s staff and consultants are now studying the issue with a wider lens, looking at weight as well as costs and benefits.

GreenMark seeks out companies that are trying to be associated with environmental responsibility, and these days they’re in no short supply. Andrew is optimistic that, if hired by the city, he could find sponsors to pay any added costs of greening the Target Center. The sponsorship terms would need to be negotiated, he said. Examples might include advertising or promotions that associate the companies with the green roof.

“There are no barriers that cannot be overcome, from a technical or financial standpoint,” Andrew said. “That’s part of what my company does.”

Meanwhile, after criticism for its lack of experience on green roof projects, Leo A. Daly has convened a panel of green roof experts to help it evaluate the roof options. The consultants are expected to report back with its results at the committee’s Feb. 21 meeting.

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