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TRIA Rink to provide Wild, St. Paul unprecedented options

State-of-the-art practice facility means fewer logistical headaches, more community ice time

by Kayleigh Jackson / Wild.com

This story is part of Wild.com's 2017-18 season preview.

ST. PAUL -- Xcel Energy Center is home to more than 150 events each year, including every Minnesota Wild home game from the preseason through the end of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As a premier facility right in the middle of downtown, "The X," as it's affectionately known by fans, is a highly sought-after venue for athletics and performers.

What its annual statistics don't show? The sheer amount of practices the Wild has over the course of a season, or the time it takes arena staff to convert it from an ice rink to a concert venue. To accommodate other arena patrons, the team often moves its practices to other arenas, including Ridder Arena at the University of Minnesota and Braemar Arena in Edina.

Nearly two decades old, Xcel Energy Center is still in great shape as a gameday arena and entertainment venue. However, moving all the training equipment, video paraphernalia, players' gear and more among practice rinks du jour is a massive undertaking for the team's training and equipment staff.

Luckily for the Wild, practice conflicts will no longer be an issue come winter. TRIA Rink at Treasure Island Center, just a few blocks away from Xcel Energy Center, is almost open for business.

The rink will be on the top floor of the historic Dayton's building, a St. Paul landmark since its construction in 1963. The Wild will occupy both the basement and the upper-level rink in a practice facility the club can finally call its own.

There's a certain novelty to a rooftop hockey rink, said Jaimie Spencer, executive vice president of business development for the Wild, but it's not just because of the view. Youth players will be able to skate on the same ice as their hometown heroes, and the game of hockey will continue to grow from the ground up. 

A fifth-floor hockey rink is an unusual architectural challenge, but will likely set the gold standard for practice rinks after its unveiling.  

The players will not only have a designated place to practice, but also access to state-of-the-art amenities, including a full-service kitchen and players' lounge, therapy rooms that include hot and cold tubs and a state-of-the-art theater for viewing game film. Spencer said that these features could tangibly help the Wild take the next step toward success.

"Finally having a home is a huge benefit," Spencer said. "All the strength and training programs we'll be able to do, all the rehab we'll be able to accomplish with the therapy tubs and HydroWorx pools, and the addition of the theater room for video work … five to ten years ago we didn't have video coaches, and now that's become vital to understanding the teams you're playing.

"The game has changed a lot," Spencer said, and the Wild are adapting along with it. 

At this point, nearly every NHL team has its own practice facility or is at least in the planning stages for one. In order to remain competitive, teams must keep these facilities on the cutting edge of sports technology in all aspects. 

TRIA Rink will also be a major draw for free agents, many of whom may view a designated practice facility as a make-or-break point of a deal. Even in the offseason, the facility will be open to Wild players to skate, train or rehab injuries. 

On top of the actual rink and training rooms, the new Wild facility will allow players to spend more time together and with the coaching staff on a personal basis.

"The medical area will be better, the training area will be better, but perhaps most importantly, there's going to be a great players' lounge where guys can have meals together, spend time together and create an environment where they can bond and enjoy each other's company," said General Manager Chuck Fletcher, whose club expects to move in to the space no later than January. "I think it's going to be energizing for the group."

Video: Wild Staff Tours TRIA Rink Site

Not only will the practice facility revitalize the team, but it will also do the same for the city of St. Paul. The old building had been vacant since Macy's left in 2013, leaving an empty shell of its former glory for several years. Following the Wild's lead, other businesses have rented spaces in the newly-renamed Treasure Island Center, which is now scheduled to be 90 percent occupied when it opens -- a rare feat, Spencer said. 

"It's great for St. Paul and it's great for our players," Fletcher said. "There's a lot of benefits for everybody but I know our players will enjoy it and we can't wait to get started there." 

The rink level has an entire wall made of glass windows, allowing players to overlook their city as they practice and literally embodying the bond between the Wild and St. Paul. 

But this vista view is not only for hockey's elite. The arena will be open year-round for community use, including as the facility for the Hamline University men's and women's hockey teams and as home base for a brand-new DinoMights youth team based in St. Paul, allowing the organization to reach even more at-risk Minneapolis children.

"Not only will we help them get ice time, but we're going to convert construction offices into a classroom where they can learn. Hockey's just a catalyst to get them through school," Spencer said. "We're gonna start next year with one mite team and we'll continue to grow that through St. Paul."

Local artist Terrence Fogarty will paint three murals on the outer walls of the rink, emphasizing hockey's roots and how important a sense of community is to succeeding both on and off the ice. In the end, the communal aspect of the rink is just as important as its role as an NHL practice facility, Spencer said.

"When we can add a sheet of ice to the State of Hockey, why wouldn't we do that?" said Spencer. "It's more than a practice facility, it's more than a rink for the Wild.

"It will truly be hockey for everyone."

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