Nineteen years after the new Mariucci Arena first graced the campus of the University of Minnesota, fans and players alike still are amazed by the breathtaking beauty of a sold-out Mariucci and the atmosphere it provides. In 1993, the old Mariucci Arena, located in front of Williams Arena, took on a whole new face when it relocated just north of its old home. The new Mariucci Arena brings a brand new look to Golden Gopher hockey, not only from the outside, but inside as well. With the best sight lines possible from every seat, no Gopher fan is ever disappointed with the view of the fastest game in town. The Olympic-sized (200 feet by 100 feet) ice sheet lends itself to the free-wheeling style of play of Minnesota's "Pride on Ice." With the capability to have ice year-round, the arena brings a truly state-of-the-art facility to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.
Mariucci Arena has been a top site for NCAA Regional action, hosting the West Regional in 2000, 2003 and 2005. The facility will host the 2009 Regional this year as well. The arena also hosted the 2006 NCAA Women's Frozen Four.
The 2001-02 season featured the introduction of 18 luxury suites, which increased the capacity of the building from 9,700 to 10,000. It was the third time that seating capacity has been increased, a testament to the support the Golden Gophers receive from the community.
Upon entering the building, fans immediately become part of the action as play on the ice can be heard from the George Lyon Lobby. Lyon, a long-time supporter of Golden Gopher hockey, dedicated a generous portion of his estate to Mariucci Arena. The glassed-in entrance features a clear glass elevator, original brick from Memorial Stadium and a display dedicated to the legendary John Mariucci, for whom the building is named. The lobby area and concourse are a virtual shrine to Minnesota hockey, featuring memorabilia that showcases Minnesota's influence on the sport. Plaques recognize Minnesota's professionals and Olympians, WCHA and NCAA championship teams and every Gopher player who earned the right to wear the "M." Most of the displays, as well as the arena banners, were made possible through the generosity of the Blue Line Club. Escalators on either side of the lobby bring fans up to the concourse level where the fastest game in town can be seen. The open-bowl configuration allows fans to watch the game from anywhere on the concourse.
Located in the southwest corner of the building, above the concourse, is the Gold Club. With 205 theater-style seats, the club offers some of the best viewing of Golden Gopher hockey. Behind the seating is the club area where members can socialize before and after games.
As players exit the ice they walk across the hall to the Golden Gopher locker room. This spacious area in the lower level caters to the needs of the Golden Gopher hockey players and offers numerous amenities. With two sets of lockers for each person, players no longer have to mix clean street clothes with a malodorous postgame jersey. Setting the mood for the team, maroon "M" tiles are placed intermittently in the midst of the maroon and gold decor.
Conveniently connected to the locker room is the equipment room. Instead of having to go one place to pick up equipment and then to the locker room, players have the luxury of picking up their things right next to the door. Also connected to the locker room is the training room. Taping tables, whirlpools and a doctor's examination room will assist trainers with the rehabilitation of injured players.
Several other locker rooms complete the lower level; a visitor's locker room (named for Robert Ridder, a close friend of John Mariucci); a media work room, and recreational and public locker rooms. One locker room can be used during the season for postgame press conferences. Head coach Don Lucia and opposing coaches' interviews with reporters can be televised in the press box and club room.
Located behind the seats on the south side of the building on the entry level is the new Golden Gopher weight room. This area provides ample space for Minnesota hockey to build its muscle. This weight room is a welcome change from the cramped space in the old North Tower in Memorial Stadium which was used in the days of the old Mariucci Arena.
The press box is located at center ice above the concourse, with the television press box directly opposite. Designed specifically with print and electronic media in mind, both boxes allow media easy access and ample work space so that whether you read about the game, watch it on television or listen to it on the radio, the words and pictures will come from the best possible view of the ice.
Minnesota also has the luxury of a second sheet of ice, next door at Ridder Arena, the home of Golden Gopher women's hockey. Ridder Arena, opened in 2002, features an NHL-sized (200 x 85 feet) rink, giving the men's program a sheet on which to practice for upcoming road games on smaller rinks. Mariucci Arena and Ridder Arena are connected via underground tunnel.
Last season, the Golden Gophers drew 198,854 for contests at Mariucci Arena, an average of 9,943 people per home game. The attendance figure was third in the nation behind Wisconsin, which averaged 14,133 fans in the 15,237-seat Kohl Center. North Dakota finished second in the country with an average of 11,709 fans in the 11,406-seat Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. Minnesota's largest crowd of the 2004-05 season was the most people to ever attend a Golden Gopher hockey game at new Mariucci. On Nov. 6, 10,587 fans watched the Maroon and Gold complete the sweep of arch-rival Wisconsin. The second-largest crowd in arena history came in 2003-04 as 10,327 people watched witnessed the Golden Gophers fall to then-No. 1 North Dakota, 4-2.
The arena seating capacity of 9,305 for the first three seasons increased to 9,700 before the 1996-97 campaign, continuing to make Mariucci Arena one of the premier collegiate hockey venues in the country. The nearly 500 person-per game average increase is due in large part to the 395 additional seats added between 1995-96 and 1996-97, the continued demand for standing-room only tickets and also to the continuous fan demand to watch a Gopher hockey game and take in the Mariucci Arena experience.
The arena has also hosted many NCAA, National and International hockey and skating events. In addition to three NCAA Men's Hockey West Regionals, Mariucci played host to the first NCAA Women's Frozen Four in 2001 and again in 2006. The World Women's Hockey Championship also visited Mariucci in 2001. The arena also hosted the 2006 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships and the 2000 World Synchronized Skating Championship.
HOME ICE PRIOR TO MARIUCCI ARENA
In 1928, "The Barn" opened its doors as the Field House. At that time, the Field House was the new home for the basketball team. Over the years, the non-basketball side of the facility was used as an indoor practice field for the football and baseball teams, as well as other sports.
In 1949, the Field House was remodeled and became Williams Arena, the home of both the basketball and hockey teams. It was renamed in honor of Henry L. Williams who was coach of the football team from 1900 to 1921. With the creation of the hockey arena, the hockey team had their first home ice arena on campus.
On February 17, 1950, before a crowd of 3,774, the University of Minnesota hockey team played their first game in their new arena. The opponent was Michigan State and the Golden Gophers won the game 12-1. In 1958, Williams Arena was host to the NCAA National Championship tournament. This was the first time the tournament was played outside of Colorado Springs.
In 1985, the hockey side of Williams Arena was renamed Mariucci Arena in honor of former Golden Gopher hockey player and coach John Mariucci.
On March 13, 1993, the final hockey game was played in Mariucci Arena. In a WCHA league playoff game, Minnesota beat North Dakota 5-4 in overtime before a crowd of 7,449.