By Ken Chase
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The Ralph Engelstad Arena will be under construction for the next month as major upgrades are installed, and one of the biggest changes will be front and center for fans when it opens again.
The size of the video display suspended from the center of The Ralph’s ceiling will be doubled, making it the largest in all of college hockey, according to the arena.
The massive display being built by Daktronics will weigh close to 50,000 pounds and will be 34 feet wide and 15.5 feet high. The old scoreboard weighed just under half that at about 23,000 pounds, and its display was about 16 feet wide and 9 feet high.
“There’ll be no comparison,” said Jody Hodgson, the arena’s general manager. “I think it’ll reintroduce a significant ‘wow factor’ for our fans.”
Crews have already removed the old scoreboard and will soon work to build a control room to operate new LED lights.
In addition to the center-hung display and LEDs, The Ralph also will replace the fascia ribbon going around the arena, put screens above each tunnel to the main bowl, add high-definition cameras and replace much of the equipment in the video control room.
The entire project will cost $6 million, according to The Ralph. The Engelstad Foundation has committed $4 million to the project, saying in a January statement that University of North Dakota Hockey fans’ experience is extremely important to the family.
The other $2 million comes out of The Ralph’s longterm repair and replacement reserve fund.
“(There’s) a million dollars tied up in our control room and cameras to provide the feed to the video displays. About $5 million worth of video displays and light,” said Hodgson. The plan is to get everything in place by the end of June.
“That’ll give our staff approximately three months then to prepare the content and to work out all the kinks,” Hodgson said.
Pictures of the upgrades’ progress are being posted on the venue’s Facebook page.
Grand Forks Herald reporter Brad Elliott Schlossman contributed to this report.