Bemidji’s New Hockey Arena

Sanford Center in Bemidji

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of taking in a WCHA Hockey game between the Minnesota Gophers and the Bemidji State Beavers at Bemidji’s sparkling new hockey arena, the Sanford Center.  I had been to the arena just before its completion last Summer and this was my first trip back.

This is the point where I preface my comments about hockey arenas:  When talking about hockey venues, always take Ralph Engelstad Arena out of the discussion.  It is unmatched collegiately and probably professionally, and thusly, no other arena should be compared to it.

Having said that, the Sanford Center is very nice.  It seats about 4,400 for hockey, and has 26 luxury suites.  I would say that is about the perfect size, and that it will be full or close to full more often than not.  There is just the lower bowl of seats and then the suites ring around the top of that.

Sanford Center in Bemidji

It has a nice, intimate feel to it, without feeling “small.”  I hazard to say that there aren’t too many bad seats in there, and you feel like you’re right on top of the action.  The center hung video and scoreboard looks huge just above the ice, and there are auxiliary scoreboards at either end of the ice.

Sanford Center in Bemidji

On Friday night, the building was sold out.  And with a fairly low ceiling, the noise generated was, well…loud.  Add to that the public address announcer YELLING EVERYTHING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS, you get the picture.  Other than that, one of the few drawbacks I saw was that when the concession lines got a little longer, the concourse became very tough to navigate.  But that’s probably a good problem to have.  And beer…it’s sold all over the arena.  And I noticed the students (of legal drinking age) were allowed to drink in the student section.  And they were having a lot of fun.


*The Bemidji State pep band played an awesome version of “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago.  That song should be mandatory on all set lists.  Everywhere.

*Parking is $3.

*I didn’t wear any Fighting Sioux clothing, but we did see quite a few people who did.  And when the announcement came that UND had defeated Michigan Tech, a fairly large cheer went up across the crowd.

*I think a hockey weekend in Bemidji is probably a must for any Sioux hockey fan.  Great town, great arena, awesome atmosphere.

*Tomorrow:  Bemidji restaurants reviewed.

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13 thoughts on “Bemidji’s New Hockey Arena

  1. The Ralph unmatched professionally, ha, what a joke that comment is. Give me Mariucci over the Ralph 10 out of 10 times for a college hockey game. Samford Center was awesome this weekend.

    • Why is that a joke comment? The Ralph has ammenities that any NHL team would love to have in their arena, and I’m not talking about marble floors and leather seats. I’m talking about the 10,000 sq. ft. weight room and various state-of-the-art training and rehabilitation facilities, not to mention the double sheets of ice.

      Mariucci is a great college hockey venue for fans who love the ‘classic’ college hockey experience, whereas The Ralph is a great college hockey venue for fans who want a more modern and NHL-esque hockey experience. It’s all personal preference.

      Anyway, I attended a game at Sanford Center last fall and I thought it was a very nice facility. The WCHA is without a doubt home to some of the nicest college hockey venues in the country.

    • How can you even say that about the Ralph? Typical gophers fan just pissed off that our arena is 10 times better than there’s and we have a hockey team! Go SIOUX!

      • That would be their’s not there’s Andy…surprised Pat Sweeney didn’t catch that.

  2. I think Bemidji’s new arena looks great, the WCHA definitely has the nicest arenas in the all of college. I’m excited to see what UNO builds in the next couple of years. I will definitely have to check out a game in Bemidji next season.

  3. I went to both games this weekend as well. What a great facility for college hockey. Nice to have in Beavers in the league. No doubt they will continue to get better as they add recruits. For those of us who love college hockey, we can take in a Beavers game when the Sioux are out of town. Drove there and back both nights. I saw quite a few Grand Forks people in the stands who must have had the same idea. I love the Ralph but look foward to taking in some more Beaver games next year.

  4. I recently attended a high school hockey game at the Sanford. It is indeed a very nice arena but it wasn’t managed very well that day. Thankfully I got there early. They had only one person selling tickets at the door yet for some reason they had ushers at every stairway. And they were searching women’s purses at the front door!! AT A HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY GAME!! I know people that got to the arena at game time but didn’t get into the game until the midway point of the first period. The crowd wasn’t THAT big. Perhaps the Sanford just had a bad day.

  5. Thusly? Really? Isn’t that like something from Charles Dickens?

    I agree with your observations regarding congested concourse areas due to concession stand overload. It was impossible to elbow our way through the crowd when we were there for the Sioux game in October. And how about the Paul Bunyan jackets on the ushers? Those Brrrmidji people are totally without inhibitions!

    • A Brrrmidji reference. I love it!! I think I like this Sister Susan person!

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