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Bemidji showcases new arena

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji State University green and white provided a landscape around town Friday as people prepared for the Beaver hockey openers in the new Bemidji Regional Event Center.

Bemidji Regional Event Center
The crowd inside the Bemidji Regional Event Center celebrates after Bemidji State's Jamie MacQueen scores the first goal of Friday night's game against the University of North Dakota. The goal was scored at 1:52 of the first period. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji State University green and white provided a landscape around town Friday as people prepared for the Beaver hockey openers in the new Bemidji Regional Event Center.

The games did not turn out in Bemidji's favor, as the women lost to No. 1-ranked Mercyhurst in the afternoon and the men fell to No. 2-ranked UND in the evening affair.

But this day was all about celebrating a new season and a new building.

Hours before the 7:37 p.m. start for the BSU men's game against UND, Beaver fans were celebrating.

A big tent was up at the Green Mill for a tailgate party where the celebrants included the family of senior right wing Ian Lowe of Manitoba. Walking in together were his parents, Kerry and Teresa Lowe, cousins Brock and Martin Brown, and his "billet parents," Marni and Craig Zamzow, with whom Lowe stayed at times when he played junior hockey in Manitoba.


Kerry Lowe was the only one of the group who had seen the BREC before, and he said he loved it.

"It's going to be great," Brock Brown said.

The full number of Lowe family support for Friday's game was 27 people, dressed in not only the familiar BSU green and white, but other colors as well, as the Lowe jerseys included those from when he played all-star hockey in Manitoba, Martin Brown said.

The Corner Bar was already packed at 5:30 p.m., with about 50 people spilling out at that time into a separate tailgate party outdoors where Beaver merchandise was being sold.

BSU juniors Jenna Dyrdahl, Paige Bellefy and Whittney McCollum, all from Bagley, were looking forward to the game.

"I'm so excited," McCollum said. "I want to get there early and get a good seat."

McCollum has been to many BSU men's hockey games, but for Dyrdahl and Bellefy, it was their first. Bellefy transferred this year from UND, but she was rooting for the Beavers. All three wore home white-and-green jerseys.

At the Garden, things were a little quieter as Pat and Robyn Hede were enjoying dinner before the game. They were familiar with the BREC, having seen the new facility at BSU's Green and White scrimmage Saturday during the BREC open house.


"To be honest with you, there's not a bad seat in the place," Pat Hede said. "It's awesome, really - a nice state-of-the-art facility."

This is their second year as season ticket holders.

"Our seats are wonderful," Robyn Hede said, adding that the seats are comfortable as well as in a good spot for viewing the action on the ice. "I'm going to go to every game this year."

They picked out their seats March 12 at Select a Seat Night. Pat Hede noted that they wanted seats across from the players so they could see them.

"We've been waiting for this for weeks, months," Robin Hede said. "We've been counting down the days."

Pat Hede played hockey for Bemidji High School, graduating in 1987.

Outside the BREC, people lined up well before the game, waiting for the doors to open, including Gordie Pierce and his son Josh, in their 12th year with season tickets.

Eric and Vicky Esterby of Fargo, who grew up in Bemidji, were excited to get inside.


"We just want to see these guys whip the Sioux," Eric Esterby said.

The Esterbys have seen every BSU home game in the past 12 years except for a handful they missed because of illness or bad weather.

"I've been really looking forward to this -- this and joining the WCHA," Eric Esterby said. "It's almost like starting over. It's going to be a tough league."

Hobey Skulstad, 3, rode into the building on his father's shoulders, holding his own ticket while clutching his dad's BSU cap. His parents are Hans and Jennie Skulstad.

"My aunt and uncle live here," Hans Skulstad said, adding that they usually see one or two series each year, and two years ago followed the Beavers to the Frozen Four.

The Beavers got their first goal just 1:52 into the game as Jamie MacQueen scored on an assist from Ryan Cramer.

"That was awesome," said Tyler Bond, who was watching the game with his 18-month-old son, Boden.

Mark Mistic watched the game from the club section and said he was very impressed with the BREC.


"I was amazed," he said.

Dave Cronin of TruStar Federal Credit Union and his co-workers enjoyed the game from their company's suite with food and beverages at easy reach.

"It's awesome," Cronin said. "It's fabulous. We're so happy to be here."

Grant Coauette, a chiropractor at Chiropractic Sport and Spinal Rehab, had season tickets through his employer.

Although Coauette, who grew up in Crookston, attended UND, he was always a University of Minnesota Gopher fan, so he was rooting for BSU.

"The Beavers are my second-favorite rodent," he said.

He was joined by fellow Crookston High School alum Rob Hann, who said he's always been a UND fan but likes the Beavers as well.

"They've done so much with their program," said Hann, who now live in Fargo. "This arena is only going to build on that."


The Bemidji Pioneer and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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