Grand Forks, N.D. Brand-new Engelstad Arena, better known as "Ralph's Palace" is site of today's Kansas-North Dakota men's basketball game.
It is the kind of place someone has to see to fully appreciate.
"I don't think the guys realize how nice a place this will be," KU senior guard/North Dakota native Jeff Boschee said of his teammates. "They probably think we're playing in a podunk gym or something. It is really, really fancy. They put $80-or-so million into it."
Actually, it cost Las Vegas casino owner and former North Dakota hockey goalie Ralph Engelstad $100 million to build this state-of-the-art hockey/basketball facility which features
imported granite from India with brass accents on the concourse floors,
14 locker rooms,
48 luxury seats,
300 TV monitors including several in each restroom and
a $2-million scoreboard.
"It is a classy building," North Dakota men's basketball coach Rich Glas said.
The Fighting Sioux defeated NCAA Div. II Minnesota-Crookston, 80-60, in their first basketball game in the hockey facility on Friday night.
"It's worth coming to a game just to experience the building," Glas added. "It is a great arena."
It's an arena that will be filled to capacity (11,700) today for Boschee's return to North Dakota.
"Aaron Miles says it'll be a home game for us. I wouldn't go that far," Boschee said. "I really don't think it's sold out just for me. It's not every day a top program like Kansas comes to North Dakota. I think people are excited about our team coming to North Dakota."
Engelstad Arena was not built without some controversy.
Some American Indian groups are upset with the lavish use of the Fighting Sioux logo in the arena. Visitors entering the arena pass a statue of Sitting Bull, then see a statue of Engelstad on a wall and a large Indian logo on the floor.
"We like to feel it is a big part of the heritage of North Dakota. We like to uphold it with pride," Glas said of the Fighting Sioux nickname, which is meant to honor the Native Americans who were the first to settle in the Dakotas. "We try to represent the state the best we can."
Football powerhouse: North Dakota won this year's NCAA Div. II football championship, beating Grand Valley State, 17-14, on Dec. 8 in Florence, Ala. The first two rounds of the tourney were held in the city of Grand Forks' new indoor football stadium.
"We watched it on TV," Glas said. "It's a great feeling. We have a lot of our guys cheer them and vice versa. There's a lot of closeness in the two programs."
Reversal of fortune: North Dakota's basketball team went 8-20 in 1988-89, then 28-7 and reached the Elite Eight the following year. Boschee's brother, Mike, played on both those teams, which were coached by Glas. The 1989-90 team will be honored in a ceremony 10 minutes before the game.
"Mike played on my first team. We set a record for most losses in the history of the school," Glas said. "The next year we won the league and got third in the national tournament. We lost to Kentucky Wesleyan in the semis. We went from last in the league to third in the country. Funny thing is Jeff watched both those teams. He saw the greatest turnaround in school history. He went to those home games."
Glas on Jeff Boschee's desire to be a coach: "He understands the game and I'm sure those great experiences playing for Roy there that's good for Jeff."