For the past few years the Minnesota Wild have traveled to Grand Forks, North Dakota (about a 5 hour drive from Saint Paul) to play a preseason NHL game at Ralph Engelstad Arena, home of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Now, MN Wild Freak is lucky enough to have had the opportunity to tour REA a few years back (before the passing of old man Engelstad actually.) Although I love my Xcel Energy Center, Ralph Engelstad Arena is a one of a kind facility.
REA cost over $100 million dollars to build and it shows. It has these amazing Fighting Sioux mosaics on the concourses surrounded entirely by granite floors. In fact no surface is unfinished at REA (unlike the concrete concourses at Xcel) everything is tiled or mortared or sheetrocked or carpeted– it’s amazing. The scoreboard and digital graphic boards that surround that arena are very similar to the Xcel’s, but all of the 11,000 + seats are leather, yes leather with cherry wood arms. Ralphie even brought in this extravagant organ from overseas somewhere (Germany or Russia, I think) and all of the Coca-Cola machines are imported from Italy! True Italian fountain machines.
The amenities don’t just stop with the fans. The training facility features a 10,000 sq. ft. weight room and underwater treadmill! I told the guys on my tour, "bring a high school kid in here and have him stand at center ice and look around at all these seats and fancy light boards and you can almost guarantee he will sign on the line." It’s just as nice as any NHL facility and it’s made for college kids who don’t get to sign multi-million dollar contracts.
Ralph Engelstad spared no expense on this beauty and it shows. The pictures on the web site don’t even do it justice. If you are even remotely a hockey fan, you can’t help but get caught up in the awe this building demands. The life size pictures of hockey greats and the pristine display of hockey trophies in the concourses only adds to the remarkableness of this facility. If you have never been to REA, put it on the list of things to do before your die because, hockey fans, you won’t be disappointed.
"The harder I work, the luckier I get" was Ralph Engelstad’s favorite saying - maybe the Wild could adopt his motto for this season!