Got my first look at Amsoil Arena Saturday night…the new home of the UMD Bulldogs in Duluth.
Wow, the place is pretty. Had to keep asking if I was still in Duluth or if I walked through some sort of hyper-warp that tele-ported me to some other city. Aside from a certain arena with marble Sioux logos in the floor, I gotta believe it’s the best hockey arena in the WCHA, and maybe in the NCAA. That’s heresay mind you…I haven’t seen a ton of NCAA hockey arenas, but I have been to the Ralph and Mariucci, so I’ve seen a couple of the highest profile college arenas. I like Amsoil better.
We walked over on the skyway from the Radisson…it was weird looking through the glass to the halls of the closed-up DECC, still with some UMD posters hanging in the dark. My first glimpse of the new place was from sort of a back entry door, not the main lobby. But once my ticket was scanned and I walked in to the main concourse, I was blown away. It’s not the Xcel Energy Center…but it doesn’t have to be.
What struck me was the UMD feel. Ever since I went to school at UMD some 15 years ago, I thought there was always a lack of UMD stuff, all throughout Duluth. There was like one place in the town you could go to buy UMD merchandise besides the Bulldog Shop, and even there the selection was slim – it all seemed “old.” At the DECC, there would be some maroon and gold, but the school spirit was a little lacking, IMHO. But at Amsoil…maroon and gold was all I saw. Everyone was poppin’ the UMD.
From the concourses with quotes on the wall from important UMD peeps to the maroon seats interspersed with gold, to everyone who seemingly was dressed in UMD colors, it is definitely UMD’s arena.
It’s a sharp turn in the right direction. I’ve always admired Grand Forks, where my wife is from, for the spirit they show…everything is Fighting Sioux up there, the Ralph is all green and UND logos are everywhere, and everyone wears UND. At Amsoil, I saw things that reminded me of the vibe in the Ralph, and I was proud of the transformation. I love the student section located directly behind the visiting goalie, and they were good all night.
My only complaint is, unless I missed something, there are no restrooms on the second level. You must walk the stairs to the main concourse. Not a huge deal once you realize there really isn’t a concourse up there…it was just sort of…odd. I got over it.
As for the game, meh. UMD didn’t much show up and they lost to Nebraska-Omaha 5-2. They were sloppy all night and G Kenny Reiter was a bit soft.
But, it didn’t matter much. I was busy basking in this new fancy arena that hopefully I can get back to see next year. I think it’s time we start planning annual visits to Grand Forks and to Duluth to enjoy these beautiful buildings and college hockey vibe.