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.
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.
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.