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RALPH ENGELSTAD ARENA: UND Students Face Loss Of Prime Seats

Because Season Ticket Holders, Suite Users, others Say View Is Blocked

Matt Brown, UND student body president, pleaded with other student leaders Sunday to find a compromise that would allow students at hockey games to remain near ice level in the face of mounting pressure from segments of the community that want them moved.

The flap has arisen out of complaints primarily from season ticket holders and suite users, whose views are obstructed by the 2,200-person strong student section, which remains standing for much of the games.

Brown said he has been approached by representatives of both Ralph Engelstad Arena Inc. and the school's athletic department, saying that either the students sit down at the games and stand only when appropriate, or the student section would be relocated to a part of the arena far from ice level.

There also are concerns that profanity from the student section is "through the roof" this year at hockey games, Brown said.

He reminded delegates to the Student Senate that the student government fought hard for the seats that students have now -- lower bowl area, behind the opposing players' penalty box -- and that all of that effort will be for naught if students don't get the message the "threat" is serious.

"That's the ultimatum that's been put forth," Brown said. "It's a threat, and not one that we should take lightly."

Mixed review

Brown told senators that a community group upset with students' persistent standing had been formed, and that letters asking that something be done have been sent to arena managers and to Ralph Engelstad himself. He added that because of the nature of the relationship between the arena's management and community ticket holders, students don't hold nearly as much power as they did at the old Engelstad Arena.

"We don't hold the trump card here," Brown said. "We don't hold anything."

Reaction from other student representatives Sunday was mixed. Some senators wanted to get the word out to students quickly that if they don't sit down at hockey games, they would be relocated to loftier parts of the arena. Others called for a strong stand against any compromise.

"This isn't about old people; it's about college students," said Nathan Hansen, a student senator. "If they're upset, they can stay home and watch it on TV."

Hansen felt it would result in a slippery slope and that other privileges could be denied in the future if students allow others to dictate how they act at games.

Blais' support?

Another senator, Jonathan Loveseth, recalled that it was UND Coach Dean Blais who gestured for students to stand up in spite of a public address announcer's statement that anyone standing would be subject to removal from last weekend's hockey games.

Brown said that though Blais may have encouraged standing last weekend, he may not have been aware of the problems it was causing to others in the arena. It was suggested that Blais and members of the hockey team should be invited to address the Student Senate to gauge how they feel about the issue.

This week, Brown and other student representatives will meet with athletic department officials, the management of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena, as well as members of the community group to reach a compromise that will let students keep their current seats.

But the Student Senate was unable to come up with a clear strategy for a compromise Sunday. There was a sense, however, that the student government needs to work with other entities involved or face losing the prime seating.

"They're not saying you have to sit the whole game," Brown said, "but there is a difference between that and standing the whole game."  

Source: Grand Forks Herald, October 15, 2001