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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Alerus Center – North Dakota Fighting Hawks

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Alerus Center 1200 42nd St S Grand Forks, ND 58201

Year Opened: 2001

Capacity: 13,500


Fighting Hawks Fly North

The University of North Dakota was founded in 1883. Today it has a student body of 24,000 students and offers more than 250 degree programs. It is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The University of North Dakota has been playing football on the Great Plains since 1894. Over those years, it has won 26 conference championships, played in the NCAA postseason playoffs 18 times, and won the Division II National Championship in 2001. Its highest national ranking at the end of a season in Division I has been #12. In recent years, the team played in the Big Sky Conference, moving to the Missouri Valley Conference in 2018.

The two rivalry games for the team are the in-state rivalry with the powerhouse North Dakota State Bison and the in-conference rivalry with South Dakota State University. The University of North Dakota teams were known as the Fighting Sioux through 2012. At that time, the NCAA mandated that the Sioux name be dropped, as they felt it was insulting to the Indian tribe. In 2015 the team adopted the moniker of the Fighting Hawks.

The home of the Fighting Hawks is the indoor arena at the Alerus Center. The facility holds 12,283 for football, including 19 suites, 8 concession stands, and 4 merchandise stands. The Center opened in 2001, and recently replaced the artificial turf and upgraded its two 15’ x 30’ Hi-Def video boards. It is located just off the University of North Dakota campus, with excellent access to both US HWY 12 and I-29.

Food & Beverage 4

Eight concession stands are serving the food and beverage needs of the crowd. They are positioned equally around the concourse surrounding the field. Four of these stands serve the stadium standards of hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, candy, and sodas. The other stands feature more specialized menus. La Taqueria serves south-of-the-border fare, including tacos, nachos, and burritos. The 42nd Street grill serves sandwiches and several deli foods. Local favorite Deek’s Pizza offers a variety of pizzas, wings, and their wonderful cinnamon donuts. Pub 42 is known for its delicious prime rib sandwiches, wings, and burgers.

All stands operate on a cashless basis. The Alerus Center features Coca-Cola brand sodas. Beer is sold through the end of the third quarter of the game. There is a limit of two beers per person and you must show your ID.

Atmosphere 3

University of North Dakota home games are festive occasions in Grand Forks. The party begins hours before the game, as the tailgate lots open five hours before kickoff, and tailgates can get underway more than 2 ½ hours before the game. Fighting Hawks fans are known for their lavish tailgate spreads and welcome visitors to join them. In addition to the food, the Michelob Ultra Tailgate Village is full of entertainment options and activities for the kids. The North Dakota team walk goes through the tailgate area as the players make their way into the Alerus Center.

Upon entering the Alerus Center, many fans head to one of the four merchandise stands to get the latest in Fighting Hawks gear. The seating bowl area is a testament to the great history of North Dakota football, as banners above it salute the 26 championship seasons the team has enjoyed.

During the pregame ceremonies, the Pride of the North Marching Band plays, and the UND dance and cheer teams fire up the crowd. The seating bowl at the Alerus Center is close to the action, as space is a premium in an indoor facility. The stadium features extremely comfortable seatbacks and aisles that are easy to negotiate.

Neighborhood 3

The city of Grand Forks, ND is located 72 miles north of Fargo, ND, and 145 miles south of Winnipeg, MB via I-29. Once in the city, you will find it quite easy to navigate, with plenty of attractions, hotels, and restaurants to choose from. It is the second-largest city in North Dakota.

There are two hotels within walking distance of the Alerus Center. The Canad Inn Destination Centre is a resort, complete with an indoor waterpark. It is located adjacent to the arena. The Staybridge Suites Grand Forks is located across South 42nd Street from the Alerus Center. Red Pepper has been a dining favorite in the city for more than 40 years. It offers grinder sandwiches and a wide variety of Mexican dishes. The Granite City Grill offers a wide selection of craft beers.

Fans 4

The fan base at Fighting Hawks games is made up of townspeople, alumni, and members of the UND student body. Townspeople see UND home games as the biggest special event and the biggest show in town. Even if they never went to college, they are intense fans of the team in green. The alumni are also incredibly supportive of the program. They typically are the major donors to the program, and typically they serve as officers in the booster club for the athletic programs.

The student section at Fighting Hawks games is known as the NoDak Nation. They are easy to identify by their bright green attire and their volume in the indoor environment of the Alerus. The noise level generated inside the facility can be ear-splitting. The students are assisted in creating the higher decibel level by the Pride of the North Marching Band. The Fighting Hawk mascot also does its part to confuse the visiting team.

The Alerus Center is a tough place to play for visiting teams. The Fighting Hawks own a record of 104-29 in games played in the Alerus Center. Much of this has to do with the volume of noise from the fans disrupting their communications.

Access 3

The Alerus Center is easily accessible from the north and the south on I-29 and the east and the west on US HWY 2.

Visitors from outside the area may choose to fly in through Grand Forks International Airport (GFK). Several airlines provide service to Grand Forks through the MSP Airport in the Twin Cities.

There are 4,000 parking spaces at the Alerus Center. The parking lot opens two hours before kickoff. The lot offers reserved parking for season ticket holders and is first come/first served after that.

The doors to the Alerus Center open one hour before kickoff. There are seven entrances to the venue.

Return on Investment 3

Attending a North Dakota Fighting Hawks game will not cause your money to fly away in large amounts. Tickets start at $25 adult/$12 youth for seats in the end sections and run up to $30 adult/$12 Youth for seats in the end sections. Students at the university attend the games free of charge, as it is built into the activity fee. Parking is $15, and the concession prices are quite reasonable. The lodging costs are much less than you would find in a larger city, as Grand Forks simply is not a convention town.

Extras 4

Free digital programs for each game are found on the Fighting Hawks app.

The Ralph Englestad Arena is a few blocks from the Alerus Center. It is the home of the University of North Dakota ice hockey program and is widely recognized as the finest college hockey arena in the country. The Sioux Tradition Museum is also located at the arena. It is well worth a visit, even if there is not a hockey game scheduled for that day. Guided tours are available.

The Alerus Center is the main concert venue in Grand Forks. It has hosted concerts for the Backstreet Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Kenny Chesney, Hank Williams, Jr., Alice Cooper, the Eagles, Luke Bryan, and many more.

Over the years, the winner of the two rivalry games on the Fighting Hawks schedule took home some unique trophies. The Buffalo Nickel Trophy goes to the winner of the UND- NDSU game. In the past, the winner of the UND-USD game took home the Sitting Bull Trophy. This trophy presentation was discontinued as it was seen as being insulting to the tribes of the Great Plains.

Five additional suites were added at the Alerus Center just before the 2023 season, bringing the total to 19. All the suites at the venue have been renovated during the off-season.

Final Thoughts

The Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota are one breed of bird that does not fly south for the winter. They prefer to nest with their fans in the warmth of the Alerus Center. The facility offers great football on the field, while also servicing the food and beverage needs of the fans. It may be cold and wintry outside, but inside of this building green is the predominant color on the field and in the stands.

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