Bigger is not always better

Michelle Pollard

Michelle Pollard

“If you build it, they will come.”

That must have been what Ralph Engelstad, a University of North Dakota alumni, was thinking when shelling out millions of dollars for the new Ralph Engelstad Hockey Arena in Grand Forks, N.D.

The University of North Dakota sponsors a hockey team. Since there is no NCAA Division II hockey, they compete at the Division I level. UND has won several national championships and has quite a legacy when it comes to collegiate hockey. There new facility is also making a legacy. Engelstad was a goalie for the team in the late 1940s and is now an entrepreneur in Las Vegas who credits a lot to his hockey experience at the university. To show his gratitude, he built the best collegiate hockey facility in the country.

The arena is not the greatest in size, although it is large, but in all of the “extras” the facility has.

You may be wondering what this arena in the middle of nowhere has that is so great.

First, when walking into the arena, the lobby looks more like that of an opera house versus a college hockey rink. There are chandeliers and an Italian marble floor. I thought the floor was nice, but didn’t realize how nice. Each square foot of tile was $15, and there was a lot of tile. Just in case anyone else in the world was interested in installing a similar floor, they would not be able to. Engelstad bought the mountain that the marble came from.

Also, all of the seats in the arena are vinyl leather. Even in the nose bleed section and in the student section. That’s right, no bleacher bottoms for UND fans.

In the training room, there is a 20-person hot tub. They also have a smaller hot tub and yet another one with a treadmill underwater that can record athletes doing rehab. The training room also has their own x-ray machine.

What impressed me the most was the weight room. It was about the size as the weight room at SDSU’s HPER. But a lot nicer. The weights and machines were all state-of-the-art equipment. There were at least ten bench press machines. The equipment was only for the hockey team, approximately 35 players, to use.

In comparison, at SDSU, there are six bench press machines, depending on whether there are bars in use at other lifting areas, that are available for all of the student body to use.

When it comes down to it, this place was beyond anything else I had ever seen when it comes to collegiate athletic facilities. With all of the extras, there is only one this missing this season, a winning team.

The UND hockey team currently has a 5-9-1 record. Although the players are young, is it beyond belief that they may be spending too much time in their hot tubs or sitting on nice leather couches in their players lounge watching their big screen TV and not enough time on the ice?

Whether that be the case or not, every game is sold out and there is a waiting list to get season tickets that is about two years long. There is also the largest free standing bar in North Dakota at the arena, so the school is making killer profits.

When it comes down to it, bigger does not mean better. How nice a facility is does not mean that the athletes who train there will be better than others who train with simply adequate equipment.