Hosting tourney a boon to University and St. Paul

Minnesota’s athletics department expects to bring in about $250,000 from the Frozen Four.

by Nicolas Hallett

This weekend, the college hockey world will converge on  St. Paul for the menâÄôs Division I Frozen Four, and as the host institution, the Minnesota athletics department stands to bring in up to a quarter million dollars in revenue.

In addition, the host city is projected to receive a direct injection of $10 to $15 million, while the Xcel Energy Center, normally the home of the NHLâÄôs Minnesota Wild, will profit from facility fees and concession revenue.

âÄúIts great exposure for the University [of Minnesota] and the Twin Cities,âÄù said Marc Ryan, MinnesotaâÄôs senior associate athletics director and Frozen Four tournament director. âÄúItâÄôs also a way for the University to give back to the community.âÄù

But Minnesota wasnâÄôt just handed the tournament. Much like the Olympics or soccerâÄôs World Cup, the location of the Frozen Four is selected by a committee years in advance.

Ryan said the process takes six to eight years âÄî the University began courting the bid in 2005.

The process begins with 15-20 locales nationwide, which are then trimmed to seven or eight based on the number of championships being awarded that cycle. The candidates then present their plans to the committee, including but not limited to information on planned events, projected financials, adequate facilities and the participation of an NCAA-affiliated school. All bids are backed by area luminaries. Among MinnesotaâÄôs backers were Ryan, Athletics Director Joel Maturi and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Ryan also directs the tournamentâÄôs local organizing committee, comprised of officials from the University, Visit Saint Paul and the Xcel Energy Center. This group oversees everything from airports and hotels to assigning Minnesota-based hosts for each team.

âÄúAt the end of the day, probably the easiest part for us is putting on the three hockey games,âÄù said Ryan.

However, even after the NCAA champion is crowned, Ryan and his team still have work to do.

âÄúIt will take us another 4-6 months to fully wrap up this tournament,âÄù said Ryan. âÄúAfter something like the Olympics, it takes two years to undo the infrastructure.âÄù

Ryan knows this process well, as he was also the tournament director for the 2002 Frozen Four in St. Paul. Ryan, who has been at Minnesota for 22 years, is especially proud of that tournament because at the time it set NCAA Division I hockey records for ticket sales, revenue and TV ratings. On top of that, it was there that the Gophers defeated Maine 4-3 in overtime to capture the fourth of their five national titles.

Associate director of championships for the NCAA Kristin Fasbender attributed the 2002 tournament success to a combination of factors, all of which came together to form a âÄúperfect storm.âÄù Fasbender also stressed the importance of having an experienced institution like Minnesota backing the bid.

âÄúWhen you come to the University of Minnesota you know you have an event operations staff that knows what theyâÄôre doing,âÄù said Fasbender. âÄúIt puts you at ease because you know what a great job they are going to do.âÄù

Nevertheless, this isnâÄôt enough for Ryan, who is looking to âÄúdo it better than anybody else has done it beforeâÄù and âÄúraise the bar âĦ againâÄù.

Like 2002, the Frozen Four this season features a school from the State of Hockey. But this time, it isnâÄôt the Gophers.

Minnesota Duluth, which defeated No. 1 overall seed Yale in the tournamentâÄôs preliminary stages, is making its fourth Frozen Four appearance but has never won a national title.

Rounding out the field, the other three teams include WCHA regular and postseason champions North Dakota, Notre Dame and nine-time NCAA champions Michigan.

Among the new features at this yearâÄôs Frozen Four is a front door red carpet entrance into the arena for the players, unlike the usual privatized path straight to the locker room.

Fan activities will be abundant as well, including open practices, public open skate, team autograph sessions and the presentation of the prestigious Hobey Baker award, to name a few. However, the best is saved for championship Saturday.

Across from the Xcel, two blocks of West Seventh Street will be completely shut down and act as an activity venue for fans. This block party will be host to performances by G.B. Leighton and Tim Sigler. The local restaurants will also cater to fans with outdoor seating.