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Official Review by Matt Ward, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Nestled between the expansive, picturesque and bone-chilling waters of Lake Superior, and the towering hills of Duluth, sits Amsoil Arena, home to the University of Minnesota Duluth’s (UMD) famed men’s and women’s Bulldog hockey teams. Hockey is woven throughout the fabric of Duluth and nowhere is that more prevalent than in Duluth’s sparkling new, $80 million palatial arena.
After spending over 40 years playing in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Arena (DECC), the UMD hockey teams made the moved a mere stone’s throw away to Amsoil Arena on New Year’s Eve, 2010.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Amsoil Arena offers many different options for concessions. Besides the normal expected arena concession food, they offer a few items that are inspired by the Northern Minnesota region that encompasses Amsoil Arena, including the Wild Rice Brat and Walleye Fillets. In addition, every concession stand dons a name that is representative of a local landmark, or geographical location Including North Shore Landing and Park Point Grill. If that isn't enough, each of those concession stands are pointed towards their respected namesake landmark.
A trip to the concession stands at Amsoil will not break the bank, but there are some items that are a little more expensive than others. The Wild Rice Brat will run you $4.75; the Walleye Fillets with the included fries will cost you $8. Those items represent some of the more expensive items. Other items that you can purchase include: fresh-made pizza, a grilled burger made from fresh ground beef, and supreme nachos. If you are looking to pair your burger with a beer, you have to be a member of the Bulldog Club, as that is the only area, along with the 15 private suites, that serve alcohol. If you are looking for a non-alcoholic beverage, Amsoil Arena offers Pepsi products.
Even in the dead of winter, while all of the concession stands are popular, no stand is more popular than the Cold Stone ice cream stand. So if you find yourself craving some ice cream, I recommend not trying to conquer your craving during intermission, if you don't like waiting in a long line that is.
The first thing that greets you when you walk into Amsoil Arena is the beautiful ticket Lobby. Adorned with floor-to-ceiling glass on one side that looks out onto the picturesque Duluth skyline, to the artistic terrazzo floor and unique blue light fixtures, to the open wall that allows you to see inside the arena before passing through the gates, the lobby provides a fantastic greeting to Amsoil Arena.
Once you pass through the ticket gate, you are greeted by wide concourses that are open to the playing surface around 75% of the arena. The focal point of the arena is the brilliant high-definition video board positioned above center ice. The next thing that you will notice is the school pride that is scattered throughout the arena. All of the seats inside Amsoil Arena are either maroon or gold (the school colors for UMD). The hallways are covered with murals displaying the team's history. The façade that runs the length of the press box that reads "Home of the UMD Bulldogs," and the Bulldog logo is plastered around Amsoil. Bulldog pride is in full force throughout Amsoil Arena.
Amsoil Arena sits on the shore of the Duluth Harbor, in the shadow of the famous Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge. A short walk from the ticket lobby of Amsoil Arena is the main tourist attraction of Duluth, Canal Park. Canal Park is home to numerous restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, and night clubs. Canal Park is also home to many parking lots that, during the hockey season, are free to park in.
Many of the restaurants in Canal Park are chain restaurants like Old Chicago, Famous Dave's, Red Lobster, Green Mill, and Subway. One of the main staples of Canal Park however is Grandma's Saloon and Grandma's Sports Garden. Many hockey fans go to the Saloon before games for food, and to the Sports Garden after the game for drinks. Another place to check out is the newly opened Canal Park Brewery, a "Brewpub" that serves fresh food and hand-crafted beers.
Downtown Duluth is also located a very short walk from Amsoil Arena. Conveniently attached to the arena is a skyway that traverses the Interstate and allows easy access to the bars, restaurants, and shops of downtown Duluth. A local hotspot after hockey games is Dubh Linn Irish Pub, a comedy club and restaurant that offers a free drink if you present your ticket stub from that night's Bulldog's hockey game.
However, a trip to Amsoil Arena is not complete without a visit to the Duluth Curling Club. At the Curling Club, you can pick up a pitcher of beer for $6 and meet many local hockey fans. The food served at the Curling Club is also very tasty and affordable. The burgers, cheese curds, and wings are very popular, but in my opinion, the Sweet Potato Fries are second-to-none. There is a membership requirement in order to get into the Curling Club, however you can buy a one-day pass for $5, or a year-long membership for $15.
Hockey is woven throughout the fabric of Duluth's history. The people of Duluth know hockey, and that shows when they come out to support the hometown Bulldogs. As UMD's only division 1 sport, hockey plays an integral part for both the university and the community of Duluth. With a recent history of success, including winning the school's first ever Men's NCAA National Championship back in 2011, there has been a great deal of buzz surrounding the UMD hockey program.
The student section at UMD hockey games, known as "The Penalty Box," has a history of being one of the toughest, meanest, and hardest for an opponent to play in front of in all of college hockey. While they have faced some criticism lately for not being as loud and boisterous as they once were, they do still have the ability to create a great atmosphere. The Penalty Box has a number of chants customized for their opponents, and they are even known to research the name of their opponent's goalie's mother, and then use her name in "boundary pushing" chants in an attempt to distract the goalie.
If you are a fan of the opposing team, you can expect to be treated with some razzing and ribbing, but overall, you will greeted with respect, and may even receive a free drink at the bars after the game.
With the arena positioned near downtown, and directly adjacent to Canal Park, Amsoil Arena is very easily accessible. With an attached parking garage, a parking lot directly in front of Amsoil Arena (which each charge $5 to park), the skyway to Downtown Duluth, and the close proximity to the parking lots of Canal Park, there are numerous places to park that are a quick walk through the often brisk, blustery, and brutal Duluth winter nights.
Amsoil Arena sits right off of Interstate 35, which runs all the way from Duluth, down through Minneapolis, and all the way to Dallas, TX. So finding Amsoil is simple, and easy to get to (although you may encounter a line to get into the parking garage).
Once inside the arena, and out of the harsh elements, you will experience wide concourses, plenty of restrooms, and views of the playing surface from the concourse. You may encounter some lengthy lines at the concessions during intermission, but if you go in the middle of a period, you can expect little to no line.
Tickets to see the UMD Bulldogs play most teams will cost $23 per ticket. For a few opponents, the ticket price jumps to $30, but even that is fairly reasonable when compared to the ticket prices of the other schools in UMD's conference.
Without a bad seat in the house, no matter if you are "on the glass" or in the top of the arena, you will be privy to a fantastic view of the action. Due to the small size of the arena, even seats in the upper bowl provide an up-close, intimate, and personal college hockey experience.
With the inexpensive cost of parking, coupled with the reasonable cost of tickets and concessions, a night at the hockey game will not break the bank.
What really helps to set Amsoil Arena apart from the rest is the attention to detail throughout the arena - from all of the local touches, including wood benches made out of wood from a salvaged grain elevator across the bay, to the murals, and the quotations of prominent local public figures painted along the walls of the concourses. Amsoil Arena is part museum, part hockey arena. That museum mentality is carried through to the detailing of the school's fifty-plus years of hockey history. From display cases housing the jerseys of the five Bulldog hockey players to be graced with the honor of receiving the Hobey Baker award (college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman trophy), more than any other Division-I school, to displays that hold the NCAA National Championship trophies that both the men's and women's teams have won.
The history of the hockey program isn't confined to the concourses alone. Dangling from the rafters, high above the ice, sits numerous banners providing a visual historical timeline. All five Hobey Baker winners have a banner dedicated to their achievement, along with banners for the NCAA National Championships, and the only two numbers to ever be retired at UMD, Keith "Huffer" Christianson's number 9, and Brett Hull's number 29.
The attention to detail extends well beyond the school's history. It includes small things like a beautiful stone two-way fireplace that spans the gap between the private member's only Bulldog Club, and the public concourse. The fireplace serves as a nice heat source for those chilled by the harsh weather outside, or the often cool air that accompanies a hockey arena. It is that kind of attention to detail that really puts Amsoil Arena in the upper echelon of college hockey's arenas.
Amsoil Arena was designed to take the history of hockey in Duluth and capture it all in one place, and capture it, they did. With no expense spared, Amsoil Arena challenges the likes of Ralph Engelstad Arena, long considered to be the best arena in college hockey, for the title. While Amsoil may not surpass Ralph Engelstad in terms of atmosphere, it has the means to give it a run-for-its-money.
If you ever find yourself in Duluth, do yourself a favor and catch a game at Amsoil Arena. Whether the game you attend is a closely contested game or not, you will walk out of Amsoil Arena feeling like you got your money's worth for the experience alone.
Member Review by 81VETTE on Mar 25, 2015
Now this is a players arena. Lighting is bright with no shadows and the fans are up close and stacked high.
Old time promotions in between periods with a decent sound system.
Before game fun is held at the curling club Bar/restaurant with one night memberships sold to visitors at a fair price. Don't miss it and come early.
522 S Lake Ave
Duluth, MN 55802
300 Canal Park Dr
Duluth, MN 55802
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