Long-time Duluth News Tribune news writer John Myers has been a Minnesota Duluth hockey season ticketholder for 15 years. He took advantage of tours being offered by the DECC to get a look at the $80-million expansion rink and check out where he might like to sit when the building opens Dec. 30.
Rink and Run asked Myers to review his view of the tour earlier this week. Here’s what he had to say:
As of Wednesday the new arena seemed nearly complete as a structure. The only thing missing are the seats, boards and ice sheet (and lots of other detail stuff that will take the remaining eight months to finish.)
Former Minnesota Duluth player Skeeter Moore walked our group of season ticket holders through most of the new complex, allowing us to see the sightlines from various sections around the arena.
The new skywalk is installed that links the new arena with the DECC parking ramp and downtown skywalk system.
The sub floor is finished and the part of the floor with the ice-freezing pipes is ready to go in over the next few weeks.
The new area seems very modern, although some parts appear a little too compact, such as some of the walkways. The sightlines are great (but so were the ones at the old DECC for that matter.)
There will be no wasted or extra space around the rink itself — the fans and seats will be right on top of the action.
The best part is that all walkways and main mezzanine are behind or under the seats — at no point will fans be walking in front of any seats (except going into their row and seat, of course.) Front row seats are now prime, although this layout will effectively curtail the student section’s post-Bulldog-scoring run around the interior concourse of the arena with the UMD flag.
The only spot you are unable to see the action on the ice is when they walk behind the luxury boxes.
Students and the band will get lower level seats in the harbor end of the arena — the home end, or UMD offensive end twice a game.
Folks who don’t want to climb stairways should avoid buying tickets in the upper section. There is no elevator service to the upper section and no concessions, so its up and down the stairs every time.
This part may have been inevitable in this day of corporate sponsorship, but there is a sense of status in the new building that will separate Duluth’s rarified gentry from the rest of us. The old DECC always seemed kind of folksy, egalitarian even. There were no luxury boxes, no donors club in the arena, no special seats. That changes now with a wealth of luxury boxes, a party room for game-day sponsors and a new Bulldog Club where a season ticket holder can pay an extra $300 per year to watch the game and quaff beer or wine. That’s on top of the regular ticket price.
The price for season tickets remains $15 per seat per game, a deal these days. But the new arena brings a $100 per-year, per-seat surcharge for the best seats (lower level between the blue lines) and $50 for other good seats (lower level between the faceoff circles and upper level nearest center ice.) The money goes to the Bulldog scholarship fund.
The good news for us blue collar slobs is that there apparently will be a new Blue Line Club where the public can enjoy a fermented malt beverage between periods without any entry fee or membership. The room will be outside the view of play and will be considered outside the arena itself. (Of course, the line will be long when the Sioux or Badgers are in town.)
Other notes: The new "glass’ around the ice will indeed be tempered glass, not Plexiglas, with the real glass offering more clear, less distorted views. Several prime viewing spaces have been set aside for handicapped fans and their attendants at the top of the lower level.
There will be an up-scale grille and pizza shop in addition to traditional concession stands. Team buses can pull directly into the arena, out of the elements, to load and unload gear. The arena can accommodate up to seven semi-trucks and-or buses inside when rock groups come to play. There will be no entry or exit on the Fifth Avenue side of the building, only on the parking ramp side facing the existing convention center.