AMSOIL Arena - Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs
Photos by Jared Townsend
, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
350 Harbor Dr.
Duluth, MN 55802
Year Opened: 2010
Enjoying Bulldogs Hockey at AMSOIL Arena
Drive on I-35 near downtown Duluth and it’s almost impossible to ignore AMSOIL Arena, the hockey venue that’s served as home to the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs since 2010. Set near the shoreline of Lake Superior with Duluth’s instantly recognizable Aerial Lift Bridge within the site, the stadium features a capacity of 6,726 and is part of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Complex.
Every time the Bulldogs play at AMSOIL, the arena becomes the center of excitement in this quintessential Minnesota city. The passion for hockey in Duluth can’t be emphasized enough and in no way is it better represented in the state than by the fans who show up at AMSOIL to cheer on their Bulldogs every game.
Food & Beverage 4
AMSOIL offers a wide variety of foods and beverages at relatively affordable costs. Your basics run for the following prices: hamburger ($7.25), cheeseburger ($8.00), french fries ($4.50), chicken tenders ($7.75), hot dog ($5.00), nachos ($5.50), pretzel ($4.00), popcorn ($4.00).
Some of the more interesting items offered (and might I say likely fan favorites), include the smoked wild rice brat ($6.00), the Pulled Porketta Sandwich ($7.00), and the walleye fillet basket, the latter of which is priced a bit high at $12.00 (but it’s a fan favorite along with the Pulled Porketta Sandwich). You can also find pizza served by the slice elsewhere in the arena.
In terms of beverages, you’ll find your basic Pepsi products such as Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, and Sierra Mist. But here’s where things get interesting: AMSOIL offers some amazingly unique beverages that are perfect for Duluth’s cold weather: french vanilla cappuccino ($2.75), hot chocolate ($2.50), hot apple cider ($2.75), and locally roasted ARCO Coffee ($2.25). Meanwhile, if you’re not in the mood for something to warm you up, you can always visit AMSOIL’s Cold Stone Creamery stand, something that’s always popular even during the coldest months.
Interestingly enough, the excitement of visiting AMSOIL doesn’t wait to hit you until you’ve entered the concourse or taken your seat it sets in much sooner. It begins with the lobby, probably one of the most impressive for a college arena …so much so that it gives professional arenas a run for their money.
The lobby itself is highlighted by blue lighting that illuminates from the ceiling and down upon the artistic terrazzo flooring. Meanwhile, the wording “AMSOIL ARENA” in all caps adorns the gateway entrance. Like much of the lobby around it, it too is lit with blue. You can also catch a great view of downtown Duluth through the lobby window and it is especially beautiful when it’s seen lit up at night.
The arena’s concourses are sufficiently sized and if you walk around you’re sure to see some history. One wall features pictures of all the UMD Men’s hockey players who’ve gone on to participate in the Olympics, while another wall features framed jerseys of those who have played at UMD in the past.
And the biggest highlight, the seating bowl combined with the ice rink itself are surely the most impressive features of AMSOIL. The maroon and gold seats feature plenty of legroom and no matter where you sit within the venue, you’re sure to feel like you’re right down by the ice where all the action occurs. Meanwhile, the arena features an impressively large scoreboard that hangs over the center of the ice. It’s square and includes four sides. At the bottom is a circular screen that showcases the scores and the game periods.
Set near the heart of downtown Duluth right by Lake Superior, it’s hard to imagine a better place in town for this arena to be located. It’s within walking distance of many great restaurants and shops, all part of nearby Canal Park. Just some of the restaurants you’ll find in the area: Famous Dave’ (BBQ), Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe (sandwich shop & brunch), Green Mill Restaurant, Old Chicago (really good Italian), Canal Park Brewery (beer & pub food), and Red Lobster. One of my favorite shops in the area is the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory which has a wide variety of chocolate candies. My recommendation is to get one of their chocolate-covered apples.
Meanwhile, Grandma’s Saloon & Grill is a fan favorite before and after the games and features some great homestyle takes on classic American dishes.
Right across from AMSOIL sits none other than the Duluth Curling Club, a place to grab a beer and get some food, all while enjoying the sport of Curling. In addition to exploring the Canal Park area, you can also cross into downtown Duluth via the skyway over I-35. One of the cool places downtown are Dubh Linn Duluth Restaurant and Irish Brew Pub, a place where many Bulldog fans also assemble before and after the games. Display your game ticket stub to the staff, and they’ll offer you one free drink.
The fans are energetic, follow the team closely, and appear to be having the time of their lives while watching the Bulldogs play. Attendance is relatively good, albeit there are some notably empty seats during gameplay; of course, part of this could be because people are wandering around.
Since moving into AMSOIL back in 2010, the Bulldogs have generated an increased amount of excitement. The following year, they won the NCAA National Championship, and ever since the team has remained the talk of the town.
The “Penalty Box” is AMSOIL’s student section. Out of anywhere in the stands, it’s where most of the excitement is generated …especially given the student section’s attempts to get into the heads of UMD opponents (in particular, the opposing team’s goalie). Attend a game at AMSOIL and you’ll hear fans shout their chants with enthusiasm and the whole display of excitement is quite fun to watch. Fans of opposing teams are, of course, treated with respect, it’s a Minnesota Nice thing, after all.
The arena is just off of I-35, so it’s super easy to find. If you’re driving by car, however, there’s one caveat. Parking directly by AMSOIL can be tricky and traffic around Canal Park can become congested. One idea is to park in one of the parking garages across I-35 and walk across to the Convention Center Complex via the skyway. If you take the tip, getting in and out is a breeze.
Parking directly by the arena, however, is affordable and much cheaper than the parking you’ll find at other venues. Most lots in the area charge just around $5.00.
Walking from wherever you parked and into the arena is easy. There’s nowhere that crowds can become congested. Important to note: Duluth winters can be extremely harsh, so make sure you’re dressed warmly. Meanwhile, the concourses are relatively wide and there are plenty of bathrooms in the arena.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets typically cost anywhere from $20 to $30. However, you can expect to pay higher rates when they play a rival, such as the University of Minnesota.
For what you pay, you get more than enough in return. Wherever you sit in the arena, it’s next to impossible to get stuck in what some would refer to as the “nosebleed” section. That said, the setting is what could be described as intimate and you’re sure to feel like you have a premium seat to all the action on the ice.
AMSOIL features a lot of history in the concourses. From the wall that displays the UMD Olympians, all the way to the jerseys …you get a sense of school spirit and pride in the team. In addition, you’ll also find quotations from local heroes relevant to Duluth on the walls.
You’ll also see plenty of banners proudly displayed above the rink – whether they’re commemorating the 2010 Championship, other storied seasons in UMD’s history, or the team’s 2 retired numbers – those belonging to Brett Hull (#29) and Keith Christiansen (#9).
And one last thing that I thought was cool: Try to find the fireplace on the concourse. It’s especially neat to warm up if you’ve just arrived in the arena from the harsh cold of the outdoors.
Having just been opened in 2010, AMSOIL Arena is a relatively new venue. However, once you take in the entire experience, you’re sure to get a vibe that’s steeped deep within the University of Minnesota-Duluth tradition. Simply stated, you feel like you’re at an older arena, and that’s not a bad thing.
AMSOIL is certainly one of the best college hockey game day experiences you’ll find in the state, if not the entire U.S. Midwest. It’s more than just getting your money’s worth, it’s an experience that’ll make you want to recommend attending a game here to others, even if they’re not UMD Bulldog fans.