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  • Dennis Morrell

3M Arena at Mariucci - Minnesota Golden Gophers

Photos by Dennis Morrell, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

3M Arena at Mariucci

1901 4th St SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Year Opened: 1993

Capacity: 10,000


GOpher the Unique Atmosphere at Minnesota's Mariucci Arena

The fabric of a collegiate atmosphere transitions to sports in the same way groups of young people embrace campus life. So when a quaint sports venue is blended with the traditions of a passionate hockey community, it makes for something special.

Since 1993, Mariucci Arena, named for John Mariucci, the "godfather of Minnesota hockey", has served as the Gopher's home rink and become something special. As you walk through the East gate, above your head reads, "Through these gates walk the greatest fans in college hockey" and it won't take a visitor much time to see why.

Well-behaved, but highly passionate, is the best way to describe Gopher hockey fans. While the fans make up a huge part of the experience make no mistake, the venue and the university add a great deal to creating a magnificent live hockey experience.

Food & Beverage 3

Unlike TCF Stadium where the football team plays, alcoholic beverages are not sold at Mariucci Arena. While credit and debit cards are accepted in many places in the arena, there are plenty of stands that only accept cash for payment.

One thing you must do is visit GO NUTS, just across from sections 8 & 9. Greg and Mark Sullwold operate the stand, part of a local company known as Cindy's Cinnamon Roasted Nuts. Cindy is the mother of Greg and Mark-not only are the candied almonds, cashews, and pecans good, but you want to get there early to buy them. Make it your first stop and avoid the crowd. The overwhelming success of this stand is amazing. I know they have some special things on the to-do list for flavors and promotions.

BBQ is also good and served at Famous Dave's across from sections 1 & 14. The Georgia Chopped Pork sandwich ($7) is excellent. Coca-Cola products are sold here. You can get a bottled soda for $4.75 or fountain soda in three sizes, $3.50, $5, and $6, the latter being a sturdy souvenir cup. Bottled water is $4.25 and hot cocoa and small coffee are $3.00, large coffee is $4.75.

Entrees are plentiful with a hot dog at $5, bratwurst at $6, nachos with cheese at $5.25, and nachos supreme at $7. Snacks include a pretzel for $6.00, add a cup of cheese for another $1.50.Popcorn comes in two sizes, regular at $4.50 and bottomless at $6.50.

Atmosphere 5

The single bowl design for a sports venue has long added uniqueness in viewing the playing surface. Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, and the Los Angeles Coliseum and Rose Bowl in Southern California immediately come to mind but those are much larger structures, built to accommodate a football field, which is nearly three times the size of a hockey rink. For hockey, the one-bowl design is perfect and Minnesota shows it off best.

Yes, the long walk from the top row, #24, down to the glass can be long. The walk back up is a bit more difficult, but the magic of the steep pitch and the sound, which seems to nestle itself in the bowl instead of rising, is quite special.

There is not one bad seat in the house. In never being more than 24 rows from the ice in a building that fills 10,000 fans (including the standing room), you are immersed in the action. For special private seating, the Club Room is above sections 10-14 while suites are above sections 14-22.

If you are sitting at center ice, facing the benches with the penalty boxes closest to you, your seat is in section 19. To your right is section 18 and to your left is section 20. The benches are across the ice, the Gophers to the left in front of section 6, and the visitors to the right in front of section 8. Section 7 is across the ice on the red line.

For those who like to get close to where the players walk on and off the ice to and from the dressing rooms, players enter the bench area and ice at about the center of the bench, just inside the blue line. For the Gophers, it is near the higher number of seats in section 6 (seats 12-14) and for the visitors, it is near the lower number of seats in section 8 (seats 1-3).

The Gophers shoot twice at the goal in front of Section 13, which serves as the student section. There is a standing area behind every section, marked off with boundaries on the floor to make sure you stay in your place.

The pitch in the rows puts you right on top of the ice, feeling like you are very much a part of the match. Row length is never more than 14 seats wide, narrower in corner sections at the lower rows.

You will rarely find tickets available from the ticket office as all games sell out. The secondary market is the place to go.

As for the atmosphere, gates open 90 minutes before the face-off. There are three entrances, but only one matters. Enter on the east side which has that famous slogan above your head and tons of memorabilia in cases.

From there, it is escalators on both sides leading you to section 1. At the top, walk to your left and the sections are sequential, beginning at 2. Go to the right and at the top, sections begin at 24. Section 1 is in the middle.

The concourse is full of different history displays on both sides of overhead flat spaces.

Don't miss the US Olympic display case in section 5 and see the notable players and teams in Gopher hockey history detailed in photos and memorabilia. Take the time to see everything as you walk around the rink, all of which keep the ice fully visible from where you are walking and standing.

Another thing to be mindful of is the brass and pep band at the top of section 14, and boy are they good! Make sure you witness the entire group marching a lap around the concourse as everyone makes a path a little more than an hour before game time.

Pre-skate is about 45 minutes before puck drop and if you forget the band will provide a gentle reminder. Things start getting revved up now. Be in your seats 15 minutes before the first puck drop and watch the energy as both teams rush out onto the ice.

Then take a look at the Minnesota end of the ice. With all helmets neatly displayed along the top of the dasher boards one by one, the home team is introduced as each player stands along the goal line, filling space from side to side. Starters head to the blue line when announced, receiving a high five from Goldie, the team's skating mascot.

Neighborhood 4

Mariucci Arena is right on campus where bus lines run alongside the building and light rail lines just south and within a fraction of a mile. Also just south of the arena, is a bevy of shops and places to eat along University Avenue and alongside streets intersecting this main thoroughfare. TCF football stadium is east and just across the street from the arena.

Fans 5

They are magnificent in every way. The build-up begins outside and if you are there on the day of a football game, across the street east of the arena at TCF stadium, it is an all-day affair. You can see maroon and gold for miles and miles on game day.

Absorb yourself in the atmosphere leading up to game time and make sure you are not shy about engaging folks. Once you let them know you come from other parts, you can be sure and be welcomed by gracious hosts.

The best way to take in the atmosphere and immerse yourself in Gopher fandom is to visit that student section which stretches from sections 12 through 14 at the arena's east end.

Sitting on each seat with extras nearby is "The Ice Sheet", a collection of chants to learn on one side with game preview and rosters on the other side. The chants and cheers along with an engaged crowd make this a special place. There are no passive fans here as everyone is riveted to the action on the ice.

Access 4

I always like an adventure when attending a game out of town and mass transit typically is the best and cheapest way to do it. If taking light rail, you need the green line and either the Stadium Village Station, which is near TCF Stadium, or East Bank which is a little closer to the arena, but just a little further south than the first stop. Light rail is just $2.25 during rush hour (3 AM - 6 AM and 3 PM - 630PM). Otherwise, it is $1.75. Transfers are free. Day passes cost $5.

If you choose to drive and park, the cost is $10, goes into effect 2 to 4 hours before the event's scheduled start time, and typically includes the following lots: 4th street ramp, university Avenue ramp, Washington Avenue ramp, Lot 37, Gopher Lot and Victory Lot.

Plenty of restrooms and the concourses are just wide enough to provide ease of movement throughout the building.

Return on Investment 5

Outside of the rivalry games which carry a big ticket, prices are very good and highly affordable. Even if you drive to the game and park, $10 is a fair price to pay. To witness a game here at $25 a ticket and affordable food prices, you can't go wrong here.

Extras 5

GAME PROGRAM - $2 gives you all you need to know, printed on heavy cardstock, and unfolds for an easy-to-hold and read process, only available once the gates open near sections 2 and 24.

MERCHANDISE - good stuff, great variety, and available at multiple locations along the upper ring concourse, including the team store outside sections 11-12. I was disappointed there were no game pucks for sale, but they have lots of variety of souvenir pucks and other apparel.

CHEERLEADERS & STUDENT BAND - the skating Gophers cheerleaders are quite good and offer a little more than your typical sideline cheerleaders as their skating prowess is on full display. And as for the band, they are good. They are so good that you will find yourself sometimes watching them when you should be watching the game. They have lots of personalities. Both groups play a role in keeping the energy level high.

STANDING ROOM - while you might have a standing room ticket, you don't have a specific space, which is good if you like to move around and see the arena and the game from different perspectives. You do have a railing by which to lean in front of you and to leave, you just back out and go your way. You might even be able to find the fan next to you willing to save your space while you visit the restroom or concession stand. That the standing room is not multi-layered is a big plus here.

CHANT AND PREVIEW SHEET - There is peace of mind if you immerse yourself in the atmosphere and be involved, like a choir book at church, just read and play along. Great stuff.

Final Thoughts

Get there to see a game, you will be talking about for weeks and months after your visit. Witnessing a game here is very special.

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