Facility Profile - April 2003
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A Rink of Their Own (and a Home for Tennis)

Ridder Arena, University of Minnesota


When it comes to home court advantage, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers women's hockey team has the competition iced. The University of Minnesota's Ridder Arena is the first—and currently only—arena dedicated solely to women's hockey in the country, according to its architects, Ankeny Kell Architects in St. Paul, Minn.

Completed last year, Ridder Arena was conceived in the mid-1990s when the women's hockey program began booming in popularity, and the team's need for ice time became apparent. Finally, in 1999, funding for the building came through, with a combination of money from the state legislature and private donations.

The ice rink itself doesn't feature any unusual attributes marking it as a women's facility—women play the same game, on the same ice, according to the same rules. However, Ridder is a National Hockey League-sized arena, 85 feet wide rather than the 100-foot Olympic ice in adjoining Mariucci arena, where the men's team plays and the women used to play. This provided the university with greater flexibility by having ice sheets of both size and allows the men's team to become accustomed to the smaller ice. Ridder's ice system mirrors the ice at Mariucci, with its mechanicals and resurfacer access linked to that site. The direct ice refrigeration system is set on a concrete slab, with an under-slab heating system.

The smaller ice sheet, and more intimate arena—Ridder seats 3,000, whereas Mariucci seats 10,000—has made a huge difference to the team, says Gophers women's hockey coach Laura Halldorson.

"Everybody's closer, and the atmosphere is great," she explains. "It's loud, it's highly charged, and the fans are right there. When we put 2,000 people in Mariucci, it's like they're not there."


The women's team also gains a distinct competitive advantage by having its own dedicated locker room, coaches' offices and equipment room, designed solely for women's hockey and the mass of gear accompanying the sport. What's more, Ridder includes a 5,000-square-foot fitness and training area, with weights, strength-training and cardiovascular-conditioning equipment.

"This is important to women's athletics," says Duane Kell, Ridder's lead designer and a principal in Ankeny Kell. "If you're going to build a home facility for women, it's going to have all the facilities necessary to make it a top program and to make it the equal of men's programs."

Ridder recently hosted Minnesota's girls' hockey state championships to great success, Halldorson notes, giving a boost to the sport.


If its women's hockey status weren't enough to make the facility stand out, Ridder also is one of very few facilities to combine hockey with tennis: half of the building is dedicated to the Gophers tennis teams, for both men and women.

Like the women's hockey team, both the men's and women's tennis teams had no place to hang their rackets: They practiced and held matches at private clubs. Now, they enjoy 10 indoor courts and eight outdoor courts, with separate locker rooms for the teams. With seating for up to 600 people, the tennis teams can now host NCAA tournaments as well. Inside, the 10 courts feature a Plexipave and Plexicushion surfacing system by California Products with a bright purple hue that not only mirrors the Gophers' team colors but also has become the shade of choice for the ATP.

A central "spine" running down the center of the building contains concessions and public locker rooms for when the facilities are used for recreation and also serves as a buffer zone for the vastly different ventilation and cooling requirements of an ice arena and tennis facility.

"It is a unique juxtaposition, to say the least," Kell says, brought on by the economies of scale and site considerations, "but it sure works."

For more information
California Products Corp.: 800-225-1141
or visit www.plexipave.com

Ankeny Kell Architects: 651-645-6806
or visit www.ankenykell.com