UND ramping up branding around the Alerus Center
GRAND FORKS — When University of North Dakota football fans walk into the Alerus Center on Saturday afternoon for the 4 p.m. Potato Bowl against Missouri State, they’ll be greeted by a 15-by-26-feet-tall banner of a UND football player above a Fighting Hawks logo.
UND and the Alerus Center hope it’s the first of many noticeable changes fans see at the 2017 home opener.
The UND Football Game Day Experience Committee, in conjunction with the Alerus Center and its new management partner Spectra by Comcast, has been racing this week to finish as many visible changes as possible for the Week 2 matchup.
Those changes include large banners over two entrances, Fighting Hawks signage above walkways in the concourse, new imagery on the walls of the sideline, player posters on the windows of the suite level and murals on the players’ entrance from the locker room.
The changes are part of the committee’s goal to make the Alerus feel more like the home of UND football rather than just a part-time tenant.
“One of our goals was to make you understand what you’re there for,” UND committee co-chair Peter Stenehjem said. “We want to make sure there’s no doubt whose building you’re going into.”
The committee was broken down into three parts: Tailgating, facility and in-game production. It faced a rushed timeline for implementation for the 2017 season as the 30-plus member group was organized at the start of the summer.
Complicating matters initially was a change in leadership at the Alerus from a city-owned operation to Spectra.
New Alerus Center General Manager Anna Rosburg, however, said the the two parties have had a mutually beneficial relationship.
“We came in July 1 and worked with the committee immediately,” Rosburg said. “The committee is full of enthusiastic people with great ideas. It was really an opportunity for us to work together with them and implement some changes. We’re really excited about the relationship.
“We absolutely were planning to hit the ground running, but being able to make such high impact changes this quickly and working with the Gameday Committee and UND Athletics has been exciting. We’re proud of what’s happened so far and looking forward to the next phase.”
The Alerus has also made $2 million in upgrades between the 2016 and 2017 UND football seasons, including new speakers, new lighting and a new Wi-Fi network.
“I’ve been very happy with the Alerus Center,” Stenehjem said. “They’ve been forthright in wanting to make improvements for the gameday experience.”
Stenehjem said the committee’s original intent still stands in that the improvements are part of a three-year process, making upgrades with the football program’s transition to the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020 in mind.
UND’s tailgating upgrades, for example, will be only minimally noticeable in 2017, due to the short timeline and existing contracts. The immediate upgrades include twice as many portable bathrooms and a set 8 a.m. tailgate opening. The committee plans to make further changes in 2018.