For more than 100 years, the modest teachers college that has grown and evolved into the University of Minnesota Duluth has been offering students of all ages, and all interests, a window into the opportunities that come with knowledge.
The University of Minnesota system (which today has campuses in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Morris and Crookston, as well as Duluth) was started by an act of the Territorial Legislature in 1851, seven years before Minnesota achieved statehood. It took another 44 years before public higher education came to the north woods with the opening of the Duluth Normal School in 1895.Renamed Duluth State Teacher's College in 1921, the school became a coordinate campus of the University of Minnesota 28 years later.
The modern-day UMD has a campus community of over to 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students pursuing bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in 75 majors and close to 20 graduate programs. A unique combination of quality and value, UMD consistently ranks among the top midwestern, regional universities in U.S. News & World Report's "America's best Colleges" issue and was also recently the recipient of a "best education buy" rating from Money magazine.
Complimented by a full- and part-time staff, UMD's students come to Duluth and call it their home during their college careers and beyond. Unlike the sprawling commuter schools of the Midwest's metropolitan area's, where parking spaces out-number library periodicals, UMD is a community where almost half of the undergraduate population resides in the many on-campus housing options available, or in the historic neighborhoods surrounding the campus.
Comprised of more than 50 buildings and set on 250 acres of residential land with views of Lake Superior, the UMD campus is a city unto itself, with housing, dining facilities, a theater, a planetarium, research laboratories, athletic facilities, parks, wilderness areas, radio and television studios, a newspaper, the latest computer technology, medical facilities, shopping, entertainment, and a new library which merges the print and digital worlds, providing students with the region's most advanced gateway to information.
Dedicated in August 2000, the UMD library is a $25 million project that provides the campus with nearly 168,000 square feet of new space and room for more than 200 laptop and desktop computers.
Since the turn of the century, UMD has added $200 million worth of new projects (including the Library), the latest being the Sports and Health Center Addition (a $13 million facility which opened in 2006 and includes an 8,5000-square foot state-of-the-are weight/strength training area for intercollegiate athletics), the Life Science Renovation ($15 million, opened 2006) and Labovitz School of Business & Economics ($23 million, opening 2008). On tap is the construction of $15 million civil engineering building, which is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2010. UMD will also benefit from a brand-new, $68 million, 6,800-seat hockey arena set to open in the winter of 2010 just a few hundred feet from the current Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
In a community like Duluth-Superior, with its metro population of nearly 180,000 and its amazingly diverse economy, opportunities for internships, employment and on-the-job education abound, giving countless UMD graduates a much-desired chance to make their permanent home and start their careers in the area.
Construction of the new 6,726-seat AMSOIL Arena, which is just a few hundred yards away from the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center arena, UMD's home since the 1966-67 season, began in April 2009. Since then, more than 300 workers were on the job at peak times, with the bulk of the labor and materials providing much-needed jobs to workers from nearly 40 Minnesota-based vendors. In all, the $80 million facility was a true collaborative effort, with the State of Minnesota funding half of the cost through general obligation bonds, the City of Duluth providing 27 percent of the cost through a voter-approved food and beverage tax, UMD funding 12 percent and the DECC funding the remaining 11 percent. Twin Ports-based company AMSOIL paid $6 million for a 20-year hold on the building's naming rights.
At first glance, AMSOIL Arena brings to mind a striking contrast with other WCHA arenas, and some familiar similarities to the old DECC. Set foot inside rinks like Mariucci Arena (Minnesota), the Kohl Center (Wisconsin) or Ralph Engelstad Arena (North Dakota) and one is immediately struck by their sheer vast size. By contrast, a step onto the ice surface at AMSOIL Arena causes many to notice that despite having more than 1,500 additional seats, it's as intimate as the "old" DECC, with the lower bowl of seats hugging the ice surface, and the upper level seats hanging seemingly right over the rink. Truly, there is no bad seat in the house.
While the DECC was known as a great place to watch a game, the level of fan comfort is taken to new heights inside AMSOIL Arena. From simple things like seat width and leg room to necessities like additional restroom facilities, fan comfort and convenience will be the hallmarks of the Bulldogs new home Designers took cues from other successful and popular sports facilities, and incorporated fan-friendly touches like an open concourse around much of the lower seating bowl, meaning that a trip to one of the many concession stands will not mean missing any of the on-ice action. And, if they do, there is a $1 million, 8' x 14' matrix scoreboard hung above center ice which will provide in-game replays, videos and graphics in 10-millimeter LED display.
AMSOIL Arena will also be equipped with something the DECC never had – suites, some 15 in all offering private food and beverage service along with high definition monitors and seating for 16. In addition, the Bulldog Club Lounge, located on the main level adjacent to one of the finest and most spacious press boxes in college hockey, serves as a gathering space for UMD athletic donors and supporters. It is there that patrons can belly up to a bar made of Iron Range taconite and look up at a wall of cracked glass made to resemble Lake Superior's frozen surface. At the other end of the hallway is the Hall of Fame Suite, holds up to 36 fans and can be rented on a per-event basis. That space features plaques of the 30 Bulldog hockey players and coaches who are members of the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame.
Outside, a new skywalk link connects the extended parking ramp to AMSOIL Arena, leading spectators into what is known as the "Ice Cube". With soft mood lighting and an aquatic –themed terrazzo floor, the second-level commons area evokes images of Lake Superior. Traveling from one level to another you can see the downtown skyline in one direction and the Duluth harbor in the other.
Although AMSOIL Arena will be used for conventions, concerts (with seating for 9,000) and other sporting events, it's is first and foremost the home of UMD hockey, This is readily apparent by the generous splashes of maroon and gold and the frequent use of the Bulldog logo throughout the facility. A large student bench seat section on the south end of the rink (where UMD attacks twice) should give the Bulldogs that much more of a home-ice advantage.
On the lower level, out of sight for most visitors, but on full display for current and potential future Bulldogs, are some of the real "goodies". Those include a state-of-the-art hockey offices and facilities, a weight room and athletic training center, player's lounges, two large hydro therapy pools (one of which features a treadmill in its base) and other amenities that rival any other school in the nation. The hallways throughout the Bulldog locker room areas are covered with historical photos and artwork, conveying the storied history of both the men's and women's programs.
And, in a place where abundant natural wonders and respect for the environment have always been a hallmark of life for Minnesotans, AMSOIL Arena was built with an eye toward sustainability, and has received the top Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation available.