[size=18px]Sports teams, commission give new life to aging digs[/size]

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal
April 7, 2006
by Andrew Tellijohn
Contributing writer


Bill Lester has the distinction of running a sports facility in which none of the main tenants wants to play.

Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, spends his time ensuring the Metrodome offers fans a first-class venue and helping his tenants, Minnesota's Twins, Vikings and Gophers, maximize revenue from a facility that was among the last dual-purpose stadiums built, and 24 years later, lacks many premium amenities.

Those goals have led in recent years to several facility upgrades in seating, signage opportunities and other revenue builders.

The Vikings previously owned all of the Metrodome's private suites. Last year, the commission bought eight of them, demolished them and rebuilt them into one super suite the football team then sold for a premium price.

The "Terrace Suite" proved so successful for the Vikings that they asked the commission to create a second one, which will be completed before the Twins' season starts this month.

The Twins missed out in 2005 as the commission was building the first Terrace Suite as the baseball season was winding down. However, under an agreement between all parties, the team and the University of Minnesota will be able to sell both Terrace Suites, as well as a dozen other traditional suites during their upcoming seasons.

"That's helped like crazy," Lester said. "The Twins had no suites to sell before. Anything they make is going from zero to a good number."

The Vikings are especially excited. The team owns the naming rights and hopes to sign a deal with one or two companies for additional revenue, said Steve LaCroix, vice president of sales and marketing for the team.

The super-suite trend in Minneapolis isn't limited to the Metrodome. The Minnesota Timberwolves actually beat the Dome to market with its version, the Cambria Club, which it touted as the jewel of the "extreme makeover" of Target Center.

The 148-seat suite was the response to fans telling the team they wanted an upgraded seating option.

Sports teams, commission give new life to aging digs