Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DU Student Reporter Visits Engelstad Arena

From: DU Clarion Student Newspaper
by Alex Gallegos

GRAND FORKS, N.D.- "The latest weather in Fargo this morning is a chilly zero degrees," said the pilot as we were nearing our arrival into North Dakota. Zero degrees I shouted to myself inside my head. This California boy turned more into a popsicle than a sports reporter walking across the parking lot towards the rental car.

Just about the time my fingers finally defrosted I had completed my hour drive from Fargo to Grand Forks and was standing bundled outside what looked like a palace. A brick palace at that, with white domes and a sign out front that read: Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The 400,000 square-foot complex is home to the University of North Dakota men and women's hockey programs.

"Probably like everyone else who has walked in here, you are very impressed with the facility. I have no doubt that it is the finest hockey venue in the country, college, pro, you name it," said DU Head Coach George Gwozdecky.

As I open the door I walk onto the glowing brown granite floor and look into the eyes of the Fighting Sioux logo engraved on the floor. Straight ahead is the team shop inside of a green fence that is buzzing with excitement as fans begin to fill the 11,640 seat arena.

As I watch the fans begin to file in, they are all wearing the team color of green. When I say they all are, I am not lying; their merchandise sales have to be through the roof as every fan is wearing Sioux paraphernalia of some kind.

I walk around the concourse and quickly the smell of kettle corn, churros, pizza and other goddies fill my nose. As I keep walking I look to one side of the wall to see plaques of every All-American in UND history, another wall features a picture of every team to don a Sioux uniform. On the upper concourse are more plaques, jerseys and pictures commemorating North Dakota history.

The palace contains 2,200 Sioux logos and over 300 televisions including a state-of-the-art big screen hanging over center ice.

"I think the money kind of testifies to it, but it is by far one of the nicest arenas that I have been in and probably will ever play in," said senior defenseman Andrew Thomas.

It is a world-class facility and more courtesy of Mr. Ralph Engelstad who was originally going to donate $100 million dollars towards UND as a whole, but after the faculty and staff upset him he decided to donate it all towards building a new athletic facility. The Ralph cost over $104 million dollars to build and that was not all the Engelstad family donated. The Betty Engelstad arena is the home to the UND basketball and volleyball programs at a measly cost of $7 million.

Ralph was a hockey player for the Sioux from 1948 to 1950 and then made his fortune as a construction mogel.

To say the least when it comes to recruiting, UND has quite a jewel to help convince the top prospects to attend school and play hockey in Grand Forks.

"I came here and thought it was amazing and never thought I would play here even when they did offer me because I came from such a small high school," said Sioux sophomore T.J. Oshie. "Actually what sold me was the stick room, I went into the stick room and saw hundreds and hundreds of sticks. I got pretty pumped about that."

And as I went to sit in my seat in the press box all I could do was just stare. Stare at the two bars that overlook either end of the arena on the upper concourse. Stare at the leather seats and Olympic size rink.

Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick are among a few of the big name performers that have appeared at the Ralph.

It is a palace. It is a hockey rink. It is the home of the Fighting Sioux. Most of all it is simply the best of the best.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

great article, but the rink is NHL size. the olympic rink is through the wall and is for practice.

Anonymous said...

Great article, and the place sounds just amazing. Too bad it's UND's place though. I'd rather see a world-class team at a decent venue, then a _______ team at a world-class facility. No matter where it's played, hockey is hockey, and that's what matters most.

willy mo said...

As much as I dislike the Sioux, their facility is second to none. It's an awesome place. Anyone that follows NCAA hockey should plan a visit.

SIOUX 7 said...

I like the article, of course, I biased being a UND alum, and hockey season ticket holder :)

If you ever get the chance, one should visit "The Ralph" just to see its amazing features. I would like to visit all the WCHA venues, but have only been to UMD and SCSU.

If you want to see pictures of it, you can visit, www.theralph.com