A nice find from Gopher Puck Live made me feel old and also sent me scurrying through the archives today: It was 25 years ago — Aug. 21, 1993 — that Mariucci Arena celebrated its grand opening with a Gophers men’s hockey alumni game.
It makes me feel old because I took an unofficial campus tour of the U of M between my junior and senior years of high school, right as the building was being finished. That doesn’t feel like 25 years ago — nor does Mariucci Arena look 25 years old. It’s held up quite nicely, albeit with some recent renovations and a name change to “3M Arena at Mariucci.”
Per the Star Tribune archives, there was a good deal of political arm wrestling that happened before the new facility was built. If you’ll recall, the Gophers shared Williams Arena with the men’s basketball team starting in 1950, playing in the half of the building formerly known as the Sports Pavilion (now the Maturi Pavilion). Their side was renamed in honor of Gophers legend John Mariucci in 1985, but as the program continued to grow a new space was discussed.
Per a 1990 Star Tribune story, there was a movement afoot to move both Gophers men’s hockey and basketball to St. Paul at one point.
St. Paul’s drive to capture big-time college athletics accelerated Thursday when city leaders announced that they will make a play to move University of Minnesota hockey and basketball to the downtown Civic Center. Mayor Jim Scheibel said he will tell university regents next week of plans to convert the 17-year-old Civic Center into a permanent home for Gopher hockey and basketball. The teams have played nearly all of their home games on the university’s Minneapolis campus for more than 60 years. “We believe it’s a good fit,” Scheibel said yesterday. “It’s good for the city of St. Paul and it’s good for the university. It opens up a lot of opportunities.”
By 1991, though, plans were underway for the new Mariucci.
Per another Star Tribune archive story: The goal for the new hockey arena that will be built at the University of Minnesota is to provide players with the finest facility in the country. And fans will be treated to the best sightlines in hockey, a major improvement from Mariucci Arena. The official design for the arena was unveiled Friday night. Fans will walk in and take escalators to the concourse level, which will circle the top of the seating area with an open view because concession stands and restrooms will be on the outer wall. There will be about 8,500 seats, with room for about 9,600 including standing room, but those in seats will steeper sightlines than Met Center, which is considered excellent by most standards.
When discussing the $17.5 million arena, which will be built across the street to the immediate north of Mariucci Arena and will be ready for the 1993-94 season, Gophers coach Doug Woog says: “It will be the best hockey arena in the country.”
Bigger and arguably better college hockey facilities have been built since then, but Mariucci remains among the best. And 25 years ago, it had a debut worthy of its stature.