Hockey has a special place in the hearts of Minnesotans. It is, for all intents and purposes, the state sport. Sure, Minnesota has sports teams that have more history – the Vikings – and have been more successful – the Twins – but the Minnesota Wild hold a special place in the hearts of Minnesotans, and nothing exhibits that more than the mecca they’ve constructed to the sport they hold so dear.
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".
Let's get one thing out of the way first. Every arena is going to offer food and drink options that are relatively the same. Regardless of where you get it, a brat is a brat and nachos are nachos. Bud Light tastes the same at any arena. What sets a place apart from the rest is what they have that you can't find anywhere else. At Xcel Energy Center there's the "Loon," which is a brat that comes stuffed with cheese, wild rice and pork, and the Philly Cheesesteak Nachos, which are exactly what it sounds like. There's a beer cheese bacon burger, a chili bread bowl, and walking tacos. Basically, it boils down to the fact that there's just about everything that you could ever want to satisfy you.
New for the 2014-2015 season to the Club level at the Xcel is the Jack Daniels No. 7 Club. The Club comes as part of a partnership that the Minnesota Wild have struck with Jack Daniels and includes a "regionally-inspired" menu that offers such fare as charred whiskey carrots, which are coated in a sauce that includes whiskey and brown sugar and served topped with goat cheese. Their menu also includes flatbread pizza, walleye fillets, and a Tennessee Whiskey Cake that is coated in a whiskey crème sauce. The Club also features a signature cocktail called "Wild for Jack," which includes Jack Daniels, peach schnapps, Sprite, raspberry puree, fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon.
The Club level also includes two carving stations, as well as the Goal Line Spirits and Eatery that has more standard fare for guests, including a prime rib sandwich or a chicken parmesan sandwich. On the lower level, the Bud Light Fan Zone offers burgers, wings and nachos and is open two hours prior to Wild games.
The new slogan for the Wild's home arena has become "Home Ice Advantage." This was coined during the 2014 playoffs, when the Xcel Energy Center became an exceedingly difficult building to play in and it has certainly translated over to 2015, despite the Wild having a bit of a down year.
As with any sports venue, the atmosphere begins and ends with the fans. While I'll look at this more later, suffice it to say that the fans are friendly, knowledgeable about the game, and very invested in the team. Even when the team is behind, chants and cheers circulate around the arena with the fans trying their hardest to energize their team.
Past the fans, however, there are a wealth of things that make the atmosphere in the "X" special. First and foremost, there isn't a bad seat in the place. No seat that you get when buying a ticket at the Xcel Energy Center will be a bad one which then means that it just boils down to how close you want to get to the action.
Even if you don't want to get very close to the action, you're still going to feel like you're right up on the glass because of the brand new scoreboard that has been installed in the arena for the 2015-2015 season. The new high definition LED scoreboard stretches from blue line to blue line and is six times larger than their old one. The main displays are 19 feet high by 37.5 feet wide and is comprised of ten separate LED video displays, while the displays on either end of the new board are 19 feet by 24 feet. In addition to those, there is also a massive new HD screen out in the main concourse, right next to Gate One, that has both a feed from the game playing, as well as a feed from the NHL Network.
The addition of the scoreboard really has added a new level of immersion to the experience that combines with the raucous crowd to provide a one-of-a-kind experience at the Xcel Energy Center.
Now, admittedly, I'm a little biased on the neighborhood as it is where I spent much of my formative college years, but it just doesn't get much better than downtown St. Paul.
Many times, when you're paying to go to a game, you want more than just a few hours of fun in the arena before you head home. You want an experience - you want to make a day of it - and there's no better place to do so than the neighborhood surrounding the Xcel Energy Center. It's filled with things to do from going and bumming around the Minnesota Science Museum or the Minnesota Historical Society for a couple hours to going shopping at places like Wescott Station Antiques or Maharaja's, the former of which has some pretty spectacular knick knacks and the latter of which specializes in a little bit of everything.
If these aren't your bag, you can just as easily find a restaurant to suit your fancy. From the quick and easy (Jimmy John's and Chipotle) to the pub scene (Patrick McGovern's, the Liffey and Tom Reid's) to the more distinguished (Kincaid's and Pazzaluna), there's something for everyone. If you're there early and want to try running into some players grabbing lunch, Cosetta is a great spot for that. If you're there late and are looking to find some players after the game, Sakura Restaurant & Bar is a favorite gathering place afterwards.
Regardless of what you're looking for in food, however, there's going to be something for you in the surrounding neighborhood, and that's exactly what you want to hear. If, however, you were looking for some recommendations, the food at both Wild Tymes and Great Waters is terrific and affordable, making them the two spots that I've frequented the most prior to games.
Possibly the best part of this neighborhood, however, is it's one that I wouldn't hesitate to walk around in with my family at any time of day. Morning, afternoon or evening, it's a very pleasant place to be and rarely feels unsafe.
Wild fans have had a fairly tumultuous past five years with their team, but it's a testament to the idea of "Minnesota Nice" that they manage to bear it all with an air of pleasantness surrounding them. The fans at the Xcel are absolutely terrific and have grown to make a better atmosphere around the arena as the team has improved in the past couple years.
They're raucous and rowdy when they need to be, trying to energize their team with their team spirit and also throw the opponents off their game with the sheer amount of noise that they generate. No matter how loud these fans get, they never forget their manners and are more than happy to chat, either to lend a helping hand or to just talk about the game. Granted, you'll still have the socially lubricated gentleman who thinks it's a great idea to scream "SHOOT" the moment the puck enters the zone or the person who knows so much about the ins and outs of the team that they'd be ten times better as the coach or general manager, but you get those at every arena and, really, they're few and far between at the Xcel.
If you're looking for an arena that's easy to get to, look no further than the Xcel Energy Center. There are at least 14 different bus stops within walking distance of the Xcel, making it exceedingly easy to get to the arena from just about anywhere in the Twin Cities, and if the bus isn't your style, there is a tremendous amount of parking surrounding the arena for those who drive themselves. Now, it's important to know that most of this parking is relatively expensive - especially the closer you get to the arena - but if you're willing to walk you can find more inexpensive parking and if you know the areas surrounding the Xcel (or have a map to guide you around St. Paul's winding neighborhoods), it's pretty easy to find parking on the streets that you might not have to pay for.
In some cases, however, you might just want to be able to walk a couple blocks, get into your hotel room and crash right after the game. If this is the case, there are a few hotels within a couple blocks of the Xcel, most notably the Holiday Inn that's kitty corner with the arena and the historic St. Paul that is just on the other side of Rice Park from the arena. One will be less expensive than the other, but they're surprisingly comparable in price and you can likely find a good deal at either when looking online.
The biggest thing to look at when getting a return on your investment for going to a sports game is whether or not you'll have a good time. In most cases, that will be dependent on the home team winning but, at the Xcel, you can still have a good time regardless of whether or not the Wild go home victorious.
There are enough amenities in and around the arena to make for a good time while the ticket prices are still relatively inexpensive. For upper deck tickets on the ends, you're looking at spending around $56 per seat, and on the sides about $76 per seat. The seats get more expensive the closer to the ice you get, as you'd expect, and you're looking at anywhere from $81 and up if you're looking to get into the lower bowl. Again, though, there really isn't a bad seat in the house and you can find good seats in any section in the arena.
The biggest thing that the Xcel has going for it is the history located in the building. Hanging around the building are jerseys from Minnesota High School teams, plus local universities. You can walk around the Xcel and find memorabilia from the Wild's inaugural season, a memorial tribute to former Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard and even the Hobey Baker Award. The Hockey Lodge sells game-used memorabilia, as well as all the basic accessories and apparel you would expect to find at an arena store and there's enough around the arena such as a silent auction and a split the pot raffle to keep you entertained. In addition, the Xcel Energy Center is one of the nation's leading arenas in their efforts to go green and have even received certifications in this in 2014.
The Xcel Energy Center may be 15 years old now, but its luster hasn't worn off. The arena is still one of the premier arenas in the NHL and is a spectacular venue to see a hockey game at. The Minnesota Wild might be experiencing some struggles at the moment, but the arena certainly is still top notch, even though the team may not always be.
St. Paul, Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center is home to the NHL's Minnesota Wild and the NLL's Minnesota Swarm. It was built in 2000 as the home for the Wild and is part of the Saint Paul RiverCentre, which also houses the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium.
The Xcel Energy Center has been the home of the Minnesota Wild since the team brought the NHL back to the Twin Cities in 2000. The arena was named as the #2 venue in the NHL by Stadium Journey Magazine for 2011, and the 7th best stadium on the overall Top 100.
Besides being the home of the Wild, you can also see the NLL Minnesota Swarm play here from January through May (if they are in the playoffs). Overall, it is a fantastic facility and still is one of the best, more than a decade after opening.
Great location, close lodging and an abundance of restaurants/bars. A truly all in one spot for everything. And no fooling on the ability to see and meet players outside the arean. Met Rob Blake and Anze Kopitar at the Herb Brooks statue, several players at The Liffey post game through the years. Awesome experience
For anyone who gets to go to this arena, you won't be disappointed. Great food options, wide concourses, and lots to do and look at during intermissions. Tickets can be pricey as this is the state of hockey. The food is pricey as well but their top shelf stuff is high quality. The fans are very knowledgeable and usually are approachable and willing to strike up a conversation. There isn't a bad seat in the house and plenty of standing room options as well. I also had the privilege of sitting in the Champions Club. Great food options up there and my favorite... free coffee after the second period.
Outside the stadium, parking is plentiful. Free parking is plentiful after 5PM if you are willing to walk a bit. Most free spots are north and east of the stadium. I would not advise parking on 7th street where all the restaurants and bars are as it will take awhile to get back on the highway. Late 2014, the light rail will be completed which will finally connect the twin cities together as well as the Minnesota Gophers campus. The "7th street experience" is a great area to grab a bite to eat and a beer before or after the game. Any type of restaurant or bar that you can think of is in this district.
I've been a Wild fan for just over a year now, and I've had nothing but great times at the X. Like many other reviewers say, you cannot find a bad seat at the place. I couldn't agree more. I've sat in all the sides of the arena, and you get a great perspective of the game no matter if you're sitting on one of the sides or ends, even in the upper sections. The food, while pricey, is good for what you pay for. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the arena is the horn that goes off when the Wild first take the ice, score a goal, and win a game. Absolutely nothing compares to hearing that horn in person. It gives me chills every time. Overall, I've had some "Wild" times at the X whether they have won or lost (They've won all 6 games I've been to this season; I must be their lucky charm). With the unforgettable experience I've had every time, this is probably one of my favorite arenas I've been to in my lifetime. Granted, this is my first NHL arena I've been to, but I've heard it's one of the better ones.
this is the best arena, that's all I can say.
258 7th Street West
St Paul, MN 55102
350 Market St
St Paul, MN 55102
120 W Kellogg Blvd
St Paul, MN 55102
175 W 7th St
St Paul, MN 55102