GRAND FORKS — For a program as heralded as North Dakota hockey, how do you make the fan base even more rabid?
By Chris Harris DLJ Sports GRAND FORKS — For a program as heralded as North Dakota hockey, how do you make the fan base even more rabid? Go larger.
On Wednesday, UND athletics unveiled to the media its magnum opus, a 15.5 feet by 34 feet video scoreboard inside of Ralph Engelstad Arena. In a partnership with Daktronics, the 2,100 square foot of digital space is the largest center hung video board in college hockey. “After 18 full years, and as with any other venue, things that were state of the art began to show their age over time,” said Jody Hodgson, the general manager of the REA. “So replacements and upgrades are necessary.”
Speaking from a podium that was set up in the Dekalb Club Lounge with the darken video board behind him, Hodgson spoke about how the ‘Fan Experience Upgrade Project’ came about. “Kris McGarry and I was standing in the penalty box at an UND hockey game a couple of years ago, when she looked up at the center hung video board, turned to me and said, ‘what would you do if there was ever some funding to be made available for a new center hung scoreboard,” Hodgson recalled.
“I turned to her and asked, ‘are you serious?’ “She said ‘I absolutely am.’” Thus put into motion the project of the $6 million ($4 million donated by the Engelstad Foundation) enhancement to the digital capabilities of the REA that will enrich the fan experience.
“We really wanted to prioritize that fan experience at the live event. We’re talking about the ability to see replays, statistical information and social media integration involvement of all of those things. We wanted to really focus on the fans and improve that fan experience,” Hodgson said. Once lit, the video board features an upper ring display that is 3 feet by145.5 feet around, a lower display ring that is 3 feet by 129 feet round and two underbelly display screens that are 9.5 feet by 11.5 feet. The centerpiece is squared shape, with rounded corners that allow every fan an equal view. Along with the video board, the project features 34 new LED entrance displays, two 9 feet by 31.5 feet video panels above the north and south club lounges, new LED ribbon display that encircles the arena and a new control room.
Fans will be able to indulge in the new experience themselves when the Fighting Hawks open their season hosting Manitoba in an exhibition on October 5. The regular season home schedule begins the following Friday, October 11 against Canisius.