State Fairgrounds Hockey Era Ends

Updated: 03/01/2014 9:10 AM By: Tom Hauser

Hockey has been played on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds off and on since 1909.  At the end of this week it will be off again. State Fair management decided this will be the last year for high school and college hockey.

"I've spent 40 years in this place...I had hair when it started," says Dave Wright, the balding public address announcer at the State Fair Coliseum since 1975. He says the Coliseum has hosted many memorable games over the years, most of them section playoff games that decided which teams would advance to the state tournament. 

"For a lot of these teams they knew it was going to be as far as they get," Wright said during an interview in the public address announcer's box at rink side. 

"It's a lot better than the rinks they'd play in during the year. So it wasn't the bright lights of Xcel or Target Center or any of those, but for a lot of those teams it was the next best thing."
State Fair management decided to end hockey because the original ice-making machinery from 1975 is wearing out.  New parts are hard to find and it would cost an estimated $1.2 million to $1.5 million to replace. 

They decided with fewer high school and college teams using the arena it wouldn't make financial sense.

In the 1970's the arena was home to the University of St. Thomas and Hamline University men's teams along with high school teams and section playoffs. Now it's down to the Hamline women's team and one high school team, St. Paul Como.

It will end the second era of hockey on the site. An earlier building, the "Hippodrome," hosted hockey from 1909 to 1941.

So Friday night will feature the last two games at the Coliseum. It will be an especially sad day for east side hockey fans who've watched, played or coached games in Coliseum. 

Even Steve "Moose" Younghans, head coach at St. Paul Johnson, will miss a place where his team suffered some tough losses in section final games that would have sent them to the state tournament.

"At playoff time if you go over this week that place is alive," Younghans says.  "It's got a heartbeat and it's a great place to be and watch hockey."