- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Timberwolves have finalized a plan to build a practice facility across the street from their arena in a vacant former movie theater.

The Timberwolves and their sister WNBA franchise the Minnesota Lynx announced Tuesday a partnership with the Mayo Clinic, which will also open a sports medicine clinic adjacent to the basketball areas. It’s part of an extensive $50 million redevelopment of Block E, a failed retail and entertainment complex that opened in 2001 but has been largely empty for years. It will be renamed Mayo Clinic Square.

The Timberwolves and Lynx have used a cramped space in the basement of Target Center, where a fitness club is also located, for their practice court and strength and conditioning work. The new privately financed $20 million facility will open prior to the 2014-15 NBA season.

Most teams have practice facilities in suburban locations. While practices are closed to the public, the Timberwolves touted their plans to hold youth games and clinics and make the space as accessible and visible to the public as practical in their home on the west edge of downtown.

“We are going to break that mold, and we are really interested in having this facility be interactive with our community,” chief executive officer Rob Moor said at a news conference.

The new space will be on the third level of the building. It will have two basketball courts, with the Timberwolves and Lynx each having a primary court, and include additional offices for coaches, scouts and staff, as well as expanded workout areas. Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders talked to team owner Glen Taylor about a practice facility when he first arrived in 1995.

“It took a little bit of time to get there, but we’re finally getting there,” Saunders said. “One of the things I talked about was the importance for player performance. To have the ability to be somewhere to work out, but then what became even more important was the ability, these late years when you look at the NBA or the WNBA or any sport, when you’re looking at it, can you take care of your players medically?”

Saunders, Moor and All-Star Kevin Love made the organization’s pitch to Mayo last summer, with Love flying to town just for the meeting. He’s had input into the design as well.

“Our players are very excited about this,” Saunders said.

This project is separate from the $100 million renovation scheduled for the arena itself.

The Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, about 80 miles southeast of Minneapolis, also will become the preferred medical provider for both teams and work with them on public health and wellness outreach. Mayo’s investment in the sports medicine clinic will be between $5 million to $7 million.

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