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DECC hockey arena design unveiled

After watching college hockey games in the same home arena for 42 years, Duluthian Tim Utt was driven by curiosity Wednesday to see designs for the new arena at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, which will begin construction in the spring.

New Duluth arena
The new DECC arena will have a larger ice sheet, more spacious seating and 15 suites above the first deck of seats. Construction on the new arena begins in April. Illustrations submitted by HOK Sport

After watching college hockey games in the same home arena for 42 years, Duluthian Tim Utt was driven by curiosity Wednesday to see designs for the new arena at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, which will begin construction in the spring.

During a presentation at the DECC, fans saw a computer-animated, 360-degree display of major design features, an array of floor plans and colorful renditions for the new

$80 million arena. The two-tiered, 6,600-seat arena will include an open concourse level, a larger scoreboard with video capabilities and wider seats with more leg room. Construction on the arena will begin in April, with the opening set for Dec. 31, 2010.

Utt, a diehard fan of the University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team, has grown fond of some of the DECC's unique traits and has tired of other outdated attributes. Since 1966, Utt has enjoyed the elevated sight lines from the DECC's comfortable seats, although he dislikes not being able to watch instant replays of Western Collegiate Hockey Association game action.

Understanding the home-ice advantage of seating in the current arena, where fans look down at a steep angle at the action below, architectural firm ROK Sport kept that angle in designing the new arena while putting seats right next to the action on the boards, said HOK principal Jim Swords.

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"That is a characteristic of the DECC we aren't going to lose, and the seats are a good size," said Bulldogs fan Pete Baumann of Duluth about the new arena's attributes.

The distance between rows will grow three inches in the lower level and two inches in the upper level from the 31 inches in the current arena. The width of the new seats will increase to 20 inches from the 16- to 20-inch range in the current arena. Other amenities include more seating accommodations for disabled fans and 68 women's bathroom stalls, up from 15 in the current arena.

"We were surprised by the double-deck plans," said Bulldog fan Frank Siiro of the views shared with his wife, Bonnie. "In the other plans, I only saw one section for seating. This will allow a lot of people to get close."

The arena will have 15 suites and 2,000 square feet of club-level space for UMD, the DECC's top tenant. For the Bulldog men's and women's hockey teams, the arena also will have locker rooms, a weight room, a plyometrics area, classrooms and offices.

"This arena will be a great recruiting tool for UMD," Swords said.

HOK Sport, the architectural firm that designed the Minnesota Wild's Xcel Energy Center, the Pepsi Center in Denver and the Minnesota Twins' Target Field, among others, incorporated large glass walls on the concourse level for views of downtown Duluth and other environmentally friendly design features.

"I was very impressed with HOK's experience," Baumann said. "They are certainly qualified. I'm confident we are going to get a good product there."

ANDY GREDER is a general assignment reporter for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5218 or by e-mail at agreder@duluthnews.com .

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From the outside
An exterior view of the new DECC arena Illustrations submitted by HOK Sport

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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