For 29 years the University of North Dakota hockey team played its home games in the Ralph Englestad Arena/Winter Sports Center.
Orginially named the Winter Sports Center when it was built in 1972, the building was renamed the "Ralph Engelstad Arena" by action of the North Dakota Board of Education. The ceremony to officially celebrate the renaming was conducted Feb. 19, 1988.
The building, rated one of the finest of its kind in the nation, was initially constructed with $800,000 in student bonds and $1.1 million in private gifts. The building annually hosted the North Dakota state high school hockey tournament, and in 1983 was the site of the NCAA Division I championship tournament.
In the early 1970s, UND faculty representative Thomas Clifford and athletics director Len Marti sensed the school needed new hockey facilities. There were numerous complaints from league opponents that the current facility ("The Barn") was too cold, had inadequate locker rooms and limited seating. UND was also having difficulty attracting recruits and opponents to play in the facility.
Deeming the need critical, UND President George Starcher began the process of new contruction. Local businessman/restauranteur and UND alumnus John O'Keefe directed a local fund drive, devoting nearly a year of his time gratis.
Ground was broken for the facility on July 22, 1972 and opened the following year. UND played its first game in the 6,067-seat facility on Nov. 10, 1972, beating Colorado College 5-4.
Ralph Engelstad and Mark Foss, a UND alumnus and CEO of Foss of Fargo, were the principal planners and architects for the project. The building contained an 85-by-200 ice sheet, wrapped in plexiglass three feet above the boards to protect the fans. Over 3,00 fluorescent light tubes illuminated the arena and ice sheet, which containted nearly 10 miles of steel ice-making pipe in 3,500 cubic yards of concrete. The exterior of the building was made of Bethlehem Mayari R Weathering Steel, a high strength steel made that oxidized to a coffee-brown color and does not require upkeep.
Prior to the 1983 national championship tournament, an entrance foyer, funded with a $750,000 allocation from the UND Foundation, was added. The addition contained an enclosed ticket booth and space used for classes, meetings and other events.
Near the west entrance stood a nine-foot tall, 700-pound metal hockey statue (which now sits in the southeast wing of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena). The statue was created by UND sculptor and professor Stanley O. Johnson. Funding was proved by the Bridston family of Grand Forks, and was also dedicated in 1983.
In its final game, UND beat the University of Manitoba in an exhibition game. After the game Sioux players gathered on the ice to watch the lowering of the seven national championship banners. Representatives from each era spoke and were honored as the Sioux closed the building for the final time.
The following week the Fighting Sioux opened the new Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Information for this article was compiled from and by the UND athletics media relations office.