GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Ralph Engelstad, a 1954 alumnus of the University of North Dakota, announced Thursday a gift of $100 million to his alma mater. The donation, which is one of the largest private gifts to any U.S. university in history, will partly be used to build a new, state-of-the-art hockey venue.
Engelstad, who owns the Imperial Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nev., is the namesake of North Dakota’s current hockey arena, which was built in 1972 and renamed for him in 1988. The new arena, as yet unnamed, would be completed in 2001 or 2002.
“Life is full of ups and downs,” said Engelstad, a former UND goaltender. “In business and personally, I have experienced both.
“But I’ve been very fortunate to land on the upper side more times than I have on the bottom. It is my desire to share a portion of my good fortune with the UND hockey team.”
“This level of generosity is indescribable,” said North Dakota president Kendall Baker, who characterized the gift as a “once-in-a-lifetime” event.
Of Engelstad’s gift, $40 to $50 million is intended for construction of the new hockey arena, which will seat 12,000 and include eight locker rooms, 12 luxury suites, four party boxes, lounge and kitchenette, as well as executive and box suites. Engelstad said no decision has yet been made on how to spend the remaining money.
“It is my intention that the University of North Dakota have all the facilities and all the amenities necessary for the UND ice hockey team [to stay] the number-one team in the nation,” Engelstad said.
When completed, the new arena will be the third-largest college hockey venue in the nation, behind only Ohio State’s soon-to-open Schottenstein Center and Wisconsin’s Kohl Center. North Dakota joins Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado College and Denver as WCHA teams with recently-completed or forthcoming hockey arenas.