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Leipold aims to keep Xcel Energy Center at NHL's forefront

Even at 20 years old, arena annually ranks among the League's top home ice advantages

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

ST. PAUL -- The Wild has called Xcel Energy Center home for nearly two decades, and following an arrangement announced Tuesday at the arena, the team and the City of St. Paul will be partnered for the foreseeable future.

Wild owner Craig Leipold and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced a joint agreement for a lease extension between the club and the arena through 2035, adding 10 years onto the lease the team initially signed when the arena opened in 2000.

Tweet from @mnwild: #mnwild owner & chairman Craig Leipold and Mayor @melvincarter3 at @XcelEnergyCtr.

While the Wild's home record this season wasn't what the team wanted it to be, the building has historically been one of the best home-ice advantages in the NHL. Minnesota was 27-6-8 in St. Paul in 2017-18 and 27-12-2 the season prior.

Leipold said on Tuesday that the club will spend this offseason exploring ways to make Xcel Energy Center the kind of home-ice advantage it has been in the past by researching what others around the NHL have done to make their venues a tough place to play.

"This has always been a building because of the fans, and the crowd and the noise factor that has always been hard to play in," Leipold told after Tuesday's press conference. "We will take a really hard look to see what we can do differently to see what other teams are doing within their arena to create the kind of excitement that we want to have. 

"We want to make sure that we're not getting tired with the same stuff, so we're going to spend a lot of time to see what other arenas are now doing that we can do."

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There are certain aspects of the arena that remain the envy of others, however.

Even at its age, Xcel Energy Center has remained a building after which other NHL clubs model their new arenas. 

The open atrium inside Gate 1 and the open-concept view from concourses to the action on the ice has been a staple in nearly every building constructed since Xcel Energy Center opened in 2000. 

One view of arenas around the NHL gives a glimpse of those that were built before Xcel Energy Center and those that were built after.

"To this day, people are still calling us; they still come out and see us," Leipold said. "They want to see the bowl, they want to see the pitch of the seats, they want to see how the arena is set up and the types of materials we've used. Other arenas continue to recognize, even at 20 years old, that we're one of the best."

Video: Leipold, Carter on Xcel Energy Center lease extension

The key to aging as gracefully as it has has been constant upkeep. Within the past five years, the Wild has invested in new seats for the entire building, a new center-ice scoreboard and new LED lighting that has made viewing the action on the ice as clear and comfortable as ever. 

Leipold said the team will remain at the forefront of keeping the arena looking good, but will also continue to invest in technology to make the experience inside it better than ever.

That includes even more seating and restaurant options, as well as gaming, which is already available to fans in New Jersey and in Las Vegas. 

"We need to keep up with the technology so that we can continue to provide an experience that our fans are hoping for," Leipold said. 


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