Los Locos Cheering Section Ignites Target Center
Web Editorial Associate
Anyone who was at Saturday’s Timberwolves game against the New York Knicks could tell this year's Target Center has a more electric atmosphere than in past seasons.
And the numbers don't lie, either. Saturday night's attendance of 20,232 was the fourth-largest in franchise history, and the crowd noise was a deafening highlight for a season that has been remarkably entertaining. One large factor in creating excitement for this year's Timberwolves team has been the dedicated bunch in Section 121, better known as "Los Locos."
"What they have done is allow people to say, 'you know what? We're at an NBA game,'" said Jeff Munneke, the Timberwolves' vice president of fan relations and guest services. "It's OK to stand up and cheer and act a little crazy."
Los Locos is a grassroots movement created by some key super-fans and a group of early adopters. The section gathers above the opposing team's tunnel and keeps the noise going from tipoff to the final buzzer.
The idea of a group like this had been floating around for years but finally came to fruition during 2011's NBA lockout. Mark Haugen, one of the leaders of Los Locos, was in close communication with Munneke during the work stoppage.
"I had an idea of a college-type atmosphere where everyone's standing," said Haugen, who has been a season ticket-holder for the last seven years. "Sort of like the soccer tournaments in Europe. I had been talking with Jeff (Munneke) for a while, and he told me that when they got back from the lockout, he'd let me know.
"I was surprised when the lockout actually ended. Jeff gave me a call shortly after and said, 'let's do this.'"
So far, Munneke has been pleased with the results.
"It's really fun," said Munneke. "You can see within the section that there's about 25-30 people who are consistently there now, dressing up in the theme nights and bringing excitement and energy. Each night it seems like it grows."
One popular element of Los Locos is their ever-changing wardrobe. The group sends out a mass e-mail each week, planning out what their next goofy outfit will be. This year has already featured themes centered around 1980's fashion, Star Wars, superheroes and togas.
"I'm one of the loud ones, and I usually wear something ridiculous," said regular attendee Chris Herman. "You have to do the theme every week. We're hardcore."
Local entrepreneur John Castillo saw Los Locos as a way to help spread his new product, Whacker Clappers. The noisemaking tools ended up being a hit that paired well with the section's desire for visual and rhythmic cheers.
"One of the unique things about the clappers is that they're not only audible, but they're visible," said Castillo, "They're nice and loud and easy to use. We've got a bunch of white clappers ready for a white-out."
Los Locos is fan-organized, and that's the way they would like to keep it. The Timberwolves organization is involved in some of the coordination, but they remain mostly hands-off.
"Jon Hanson helps in the marketing dept, and we get love and support from people like (Vice President of Ticket Sales and Premium Seating) Ryan Tanke," said Haugen. "They do a great job of encouraging us. It's totally fan-led; with all the people that have jumped in, it remains very organic. It's a good cooperative effort. Without the permission of the Wolves, there is no section for the crazies."
The fan group and the Timberwolves are excited about the future of Los Locos. While the fans have grown to enjoy the group as a sparkplug for the arena, the front office has embraced how the Locos have helped get fans on their feet.
"There's a lot to be excited about this year," Munneke said. "Ricky (Rubio) came over and has exceeded expectations. Kevin Love is continuing to do very well. And then there's a buzz around the gym that has created a very fun NBA product — there's no question that Los Locos has been a part of that."
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