FARGO, N.D. | The Ralph Engelstad Arena at the University of North Dakota is preparing to unveil what it calls the largest video display in college hockey, a 50,000-pound scoreboard manufactured by South Dakota-based Daktronics.
The Engelstad Family Foundation, which has been at odds with recently departed school president Mark Kennedy over the university's operating agreement with the foundation and other issues, has donated $4 million for the $6 million project. The remaining $2 million is coming out of the building's long-term repair and building fund.
Arena general manager Jody Hodgson said the idea to upgrade the video display was suggested by foundation trustee Kris Engelstad McGarry about a year and a half ago while she and Hodgson were watching a game in the Grand Forks facility. The late Ralph Engelstad, McGarry's father and former North Dakota hockey player, donated the money for the $110 million area.
"Kris was looking up at the scoreboard and she said, 'Well, if the money was ever provided for a new scoreboard, what would you want it to look like?'" Hodgson said.
That was about the time the feud between McGarry and Kennedy became public. Earlier this year, McGarry told the Grand Forks Herald that the Engelstad Foundation would give no direct funds to the university as long as Kennedy was still there. The foundation continued to support the arena, the hockey program and student scholarships. Last month Kennedy was named president at the University of Colorado.
The scoreboard is the most expensive upgrade to the Ralph Engelstad Arena, which opened in 2001. Hodgson said Daktronics presented about 60 or 70 designs before the arena group settled on four 34-feet wide by 15.5-feet high video boards that are visible from throughout the arena.
"It was the best fit for us because we stayed true to Mr. Engelstad's original vision that it was a four-sided board so everybody had a similar experience," Hodgson said.
The improvements include a new LED ribbon display that encircles the bottom bowl, LED video displays above each entrance to ice level, and a state-of-the-art lighting system. The electronics will have "an unbelievable wow factor," said Matt Warnke, spokesman for Brookings, South Dakota-based Daktronics.
"Just like our fans, I can hardly wait to see the new technology live in person next season," North Dakota hockey coach Brad Berry said.