The Xcel Energy Center is one of the league's newest arenas, having opened just a few
months ago, and is the home to the expansion NHL Minnesota Wild. Located on the western
edge of downtown St. Paul and adjacent to the Rivercentre Convention Center, this
beautiful new facility is also close to the magnificent Cathedral Hill and just blocks from the
Minnesota State Capitol. Seating for hockey is just over 18,600. The city of St. Paul owns the
arena and it is managed by a subsidiary of the team.
Again, we have to talk in superlatives when describing this arena, for great lengths were
taken both inside and outside to make this whole building an experience in itself. To begin
with, the entire north side of the building is one huge glass facade, with the building
marquee at the top of the glass and a full color dot matrix board showing ads and listing
upcoming events. As you approach the main entrance, there is a smaller dot matrix
marquee illuminating the sidewalk beneath. The building is attractive, glitzy and
impressive, and the surrounding parkways and open lands looking out to Cathedral Hill are
serene and ambient. The other side of the building abuts the convention center, so even
though this building is right downtown it has more of a parklike setting feel to it than a
downtown feel. Nevertheless other downtown attractions are easily accessible by foot or
by shuttle bus. At night, the building is lit up to complement the adjacent St. Paul skyline.
The concourses and amenities
Once you walk inside this building and begin to get a feel for it, you eventually come to
realize that the colors and accents of the building are designed to give you the feel of the
forests and nature of Minnesota. Floors, walls, and fixtures are colored brown, copper and
tan with forest green accents. Doorways and concession stands all have a natural wood
finish and are designed to mimic the design of a ski chalet. Concourses are super wide,
even in the upper level, and all three concourses - lower, club, and upper have a view of
the arena bowl and the playing surface.
On the main concourse is a sports bar adjacent to the main lobby, and along all the walls in
the bar are showcases and displays of Minnesota's storied hockey history. The suite
concourse, the balcony of which overlooks the main concourse, is decorated with hanging
jerseys of every high school team in the state of Minnesota. While that is a great idea and a
nice tribute, we were disappointed that only those with suite tickets could get close
enough to these jersey displays to properly view and enjoy them.
A large team store named the "Hockey Lodge" sells team wares and is adjacent to another
On the club concourse is an upscale restaurant called Headwaters, which serves a buffet
similar to our 100 Harbour Club setup. Here one can also find a cigar lounge complete with
fireplace and another bar/lounge on the other side of the club section. There is a separate
escalator for club ticket holders.
We did mention how wide the concourses were and this includes the upper level. This is
unusual in arenas that we have visited where the upper deck usually had a narrower
concourse. We figured out why - What we found up top were very high pitched seats similar
to those in the oranges in the Aud. Sitting in those seats put you right on top of the action
on the ice and offered a terrific view. (That's where we sat when we weren't touring the
building or sneaking down to the club section to check it out - and yes we did scam our way
A wide variety of concessions and great food selection.. including a "Buffalo Wild Wings"
stand featuring our great contribution to the world's culinary delights.. Nice touch, St. Paul!
As in Columbus, it is the arena bowl that makes this place just outstanding. The seats are all
done in a soft forest green, and along the walls and trim are tan/brown accents. The
concrete aisles are not gray, but rather a copper/brown mix. Unlike Buffalo, the suites are
above the lower level, then the clubs, and the uppers. In each of the four corners are
green towers which are topped off by "crows nests". Each of the four platforms is unique -
one contains a lighthouse (commemorating Minnesota's rich naval history abutting Lake
Superior), the second the organ which was shaped like a zamboni, the third a platform for a
3 piece band and which also entertained, and the fourth for an emcee to open the game
and also host contests and entertainment during the media timeouts. Nice setup!
This arena also has the surround LED message board technology along the balcony rail. But
here in Minnesota, they take it much further. Their LED message board goes 360 degrees
around the balcony; furthermore, companion LED boards are also located on the sidelines
on the upper balcony, as well as at the top and the very bottom of the scoreboards. During
the action they just display stationary ads and game information, out of town scores etc. But
watch during the TV timeouts, intermissions, or when a goal is scored! These boards turn
into a dazzling special effects display which is a show in itself. This technology is just so
awesome it is hard to even describe - you just have to experience it.
They are a new franchise and there is no history to display, and the North Stars legacy is
somewhat muted, but there is one banner worth noting. The owner of the team decided
that the Minnesota fans were "#1", so he "retired" the #1 and hung the fans number to the
rafters. Thus "Wild Fans - 1".
......... We, of course, think this utterly ridiculous.
If we want to be picky or mean spirited, we could say that this community let their first NHL
franchise slip away, went through not one, but TWO versions of the WHA Fighting Saints,
and stayed away in droves when the Moose competed in the IHL. All this, in a state that is
the hotbed of hockey in the US. In our book, the number "1" designation is something that
needs to be earned over time, not just announced and hung. Whether it's corporate
banners in Columbus, 7th man banners in Nashville or attendance champion banners in
Tampa Bay, these type of banners represent a disturbing trend to those of us who value
the sanctity of this distinction. So we say it again- do as they do in Toronto and in
Montreal... save the rafters of the arena to honor the gods of the sport who dazzled us with
their talent and brilliance on the ice and on the court... save the rafters to hallow the titles
and the Stanley Cups. And to the new teams we offer this advice -do as they do at the
Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim - until you win something leave your rafters empty!
They did it right here - capturing the great hockey tradition of the state, combining it with
indoor and outdoor design and architecture to reflect the flavor of the area, and an
amazing and unique seating bowl with the top notch dazzling special LED effects. Add all
the fixings and amenities and the Xcel Energy Center jumps to the top of the list as one of
the NHL's top venues!
Food and team store 6.5
Scoreboard and electronics 8.5
Fan support 9
Location and neighborhood 6
Banners and history 2.5
In game entertainment 7
Concourses/fan comfort 9
Bonus: Crows nest, lighthouse, zamboni shaped organ: 5
High school jerseys in concourses: 2