The Old Ralph
Despite some disapproval of the demise of the old Barn, fans flocked to the new UND hockey arena at its opening day in the late fall of 1972 and found an awe inspiring sight. Sparked by bright illumination, a glistening ice surface, shiny Plexiglass, alternating green and white backed seats, a modern, multi-sided scoreboard over center ice that brought gasps of delight and appreciation from fans and a feeling that the UND hockey program had finally arrived at the national level in all aspects.
Official dedication for the $2 million dollar facility occurred on January 13, 1973, which included a 2-2 tie with the University of Minnesota. The campaign in charge of funding for the new hockey facility was lead by the late John O'Keefe, a Grand Forks businessman and civic leader, the late Len Marti, former UND Athletic Director, and Earl Strinden, a staff member of the Alumni Association. Funding for the facility came from $800,000 in student bonds, $500,000 from the Edmond A. Hughes Estate, $240,000 from Alumni across the nation and special friends, and $460,000 from a local fund drive.
An added bonus for the hockey game brought by the new facility was the broadening support spurred by the comfort, class and capacity of the new facility. Even people who seemed oblivious to UND hockey quickly and enthusiastically joined the legions of followers. Hockey games became a social event for those from near and far.
But the luxury and spaciousness didn't end with the building's original construction. The increased demand for more seats and more space had to be met. The seating of about 5,700 was expanded to about 6,100. Fans were able to spread out even more with the addition in 1983 of a three story, 14,000 square foot lobby, which increased the original size of the arena by about 15,000 square feet. Besides the additional space and seating, also added were a specially designed and designated gathering place for Sioux Club members, the UND athletic Hall of Fame, the Sioux hockey All-American wall, coaches office and players lounge, and interior ticket booths. The $750,000 addition was funded by the UND Foundation from part of a large gift provided by 1906 Alumnus Kenneth Hyslop.
On February 19, 1988 the building was christened Ralph Engelstad Arena in honor of the 1954 UND graduate and former Sioux goalie from Thief River Falls, Minnesota. After his time at UND, Engelstad went on to own and manage a number of successful enterprises, including the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The original Ralph Engelstad Arena was frequently mentioned in a survey done by former players of the WCHA as one of their favorite places they ever played.