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Minnesota Fans Go Wild Over New Arena

Sat April 01, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Dorinda Anderson

Best known as the home of Minnesota State High School tournaments, the St. Paul Civic Center Arena was demolished and is being replaced with a 59,850-square-meter (665,000 sq. ft.) structure that will still host high school hockey tournaments. Many other events will also find their home at the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Minnesota Wild arena.

Minnesota Wild is owned by Minnesota Hockey Ventures Group LP, chaired by Bob Naegele Jr., a long-time Minnesota hockey fan and community business leader. Chief Executive Officer Jac K. Sperling will oversee the operations of the organizations, including the new St. Paul Arena and Minnesota Wild’s business and hockey operation.

As the arenas project director, Ray Chandler will direct the team’s work on the multi-purpose, entertainment facility.

The former arena was opened in 1973 for $19 million and played host to numerous entertainers, circuses, ice shows, sportsman’s shows and home and patio shows. But because of its limited seating — about 14,000 — and a need for renovation to meet NHL standards, renovation proved cost prohibitive, said Allen Troshinsky, project director with M.A. Mortenson of Minneapolis. “At the time it was built, it wasn’t built to accommodate a current NHL crowd and it didn’t have novelty areas like concessions, which are necessary for a NHL team to survive.”

M.A. Mortenson and Thor Construction Inc., are working jointly on the project as construction managers.

The new facility, which will have seating for about 18,600 hockey fans and up to 20,000 seats for other events depending on where the stage is set, is being constructed at the same location as the previous arena — on a 6-acre site in downtown St. Paul, MN.

Two other buildings making up the downtown St. Paul convention, entertainment and sports complex are The Roy Wilkins Auditorium, which opened in 1931 and hosts many events such as small rock concerts; and the St. Paul RiverCentre, Convention Center, which opened about two years ago, and is more of a convention center. Both are basic all-brick buildings, Troshinsky said, and they will connect to the new arena.

The construction process has been a pretty easy one, Troshinsky said. “We went into the construction knowing that one of the toughest obstacles would be demolition of the existing facility while maintaining service to the two other buildings. It was an extensive disruption avoidance program.”

Demolition began in June of 1998 and new construction followed in October of that year. The $130-million arena is scheduled for completion this fall, with events being planned for October.

At this point, the concrete structure is fully enclosed for the winter months, and the interior finish work is beginning, he added. The roof consists of a steel roof system.

Though the majority of the outside of the building is a brick facade and stone that matches the adjacent buildings, the entire west wall is glass. “That is probably the most notable piece of construction people will see when they come here,” Troshinsky said. “The old one was a big solid drum. This building is extremely open. You can stand outside and see activity on every floor and people inside will have an excellent view of the cathedral, the capital and the downtown buildings.”

Much of the interior will consist of exposed concrete. There will be a lot of drywall and acoustical ceiling tile. The suites will be finished with high-end finishes and wall coverings in lieu of paint, Troshinsky said. There will also be a number of tiles in the bathrooms and slate floors at all four major entrances, one on each corner.

So far about 30 subcontractors have worked on the project. Soon interior finish contracts will be awarded, which will bring the number of subcontractors to 40 or 50 by the time the building is complete, Troshinsky said.

Since the construction of the St. Paul Arena is part of a river front issue where the city is trying to draw people back downtown, there are also plans to build a skyway on the southern end to connect the entire complex to the other skyways in town.

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