This is how every seat gets a shirt and towel for Timberwolves playoff games

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It’s roughly 1:30 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, and tipoff between the Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks is quickly approaching.

As the hustle and bustle in downtown Minneapolis slowly picks up ahead of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, well over 100 employees of the Timberwolves are working feverishly inside Target Center making sure everything is set up for the occasion.

There are pockets of people in different sections throughout the building draping shirts on seats and laying towels on top of that. The scene resembles something out of National Geographic, like various ant colonies working in unison to complete a task.

This is how every seat gets a shirt and towel for Timberwolves playoff games. The giveaway for fans has produced immaculate vibes at Target Center over the past month. It’s spectacular to see more than 18,000 fans wearing the same shirt while waving the same towel.

That’s exactly what the Timberwolves are going for as vice president of fan experience Jeff Munneke is concerned.

He doesn’t want fans thinking about the work that went into the moment. He just wants them to soak in every second of it.

“Just being able to do something like this helps create even more of an atmosphere inside the building,” said Munneke, the organization’s longest-tenured employee, who was hard at work in Section 110 in the hours leading up to tipoff. “You’ve got people walking into the Target Center, and they’re howling and chanting. There’s already a bounce to everybody’s step, and then they come in here and it’s so vibrant with the shirts and towels. It’s a lot of fun.”

The planning process for the Timberwolves started with casual conversations in late February and early March.

What did they want the giveaways to entail?  What was the aesthetic going to look like? What were they going to do to promote whatever they decided on?

“We decided to do both a shirt and a towel,” said chief marketing officer Mike Grahl, who was bouncing around Section 108 helping anywhere he could. “There was so much energy around, so we wanted to give fans something to wear and something to wave.”

The design for each shirt and towel has come from within the organization. That allowed the Timberwolves to stray from the plainness that is usually associated with giveaways.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with it,” Grahl said. “We’ve gotten to lean into a little bit of Wolves culture.”

It’s gotten pretty weird at times — in the best way possible — as the Timberwolves have catered to the diehard fans.

They had a shirt with niche mascot Air Crunch flying over downtown Minneapolis for a home game last round against the Denver Nuggets. They opted for a more traditional “WOLVES BACK” insignia with the Timberwolves hosting the Mavericks in Game 5.

“We always talk about this could be on somebody’s bucket list,” Munneke said. “We want to make sure it’s a great experience, because that’s what it’s all about.

There’s actually an art to the setup at Target Center. In fact, the Timberwolves sent out a tutorial video to their employees prior to the playoffs, detailing how to properly place the shirt on the seat with the towel on top. The techniques vary.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years,” Munneke said. “I figured I’ve laid down almost 200,000 shirts in my life. That doesn’t include playoff games like this where we’re doing both shirts and towels. I’ve worked on every type of technique imaginable to figure out what works.”

The way the shirts and towels end up on the seat doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters to the Timberwolves is that the fans enjoy it.

“Nobody in the organization is above it,” said Kelley Wollak, a partnership and marketing executive, who took a moment to look around Target Center after finishing up her portion of the set up in Section 112. “We do it because we know it’s going to make a big impact for our fans. Just seeing how much joy each shirt and towel brings the fans makes it all worth it. It’s incredible to see it all come together in that moment when it’s tipoff, and everybody is wearing their shirt and waving their towel.”

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