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By Kerry Collins, Published April 21 2009

U18 hockey: Tourney a success, Urban Plains Center GM Lance Johnson says publicity good for new arena

Ask anybody from USA Hockey and the IIHF, and the World U18 Championship was a success.

The people at the Urban Plains Center are pretty pleased with their showing, too.

“We’re probably going to break even (from a money standpoint),” said Lance Johnson, the UP Center’s general manager. “But just from the fact of the publicity we got, it was great.

“We showed that Fargo could host an international event, and the recognition we got was awesome. You can’t judge that in dollars.”

The 31-game, 11-day tournament wrapped up on Sunday with the United States becoming the first host country in the tournament’s 11-year history to win the gold medal.

Johnson said they won’t know the final financial numbers for a while, since things like concessions and merchandise were run by outside companies.

But the concessions were making a killing near the end of the tournament, and the UP Center was running out of sizes for some of the wearable merchandise.

“The concessions were running out of things – especially for the gold medal game, and the U.S. games against Canada and Russia,” Johnson said. “So we did pretty well in that department.

“And at the beginning of the tournament, apparel for the other countries was flying off the shelves.”

The total tournament attendance was 44,779 people in the 31 games. That’s an average of 1,444 per game at both the UP Center and Moorhead Sports Center.

The bulk of that attendance came in Fargo, as 42,233 of those fans took in games at the UP Center.

Obviously, the United States was the country that drew the most fans at 3,335 per game.

The last two U.S. games – the semifinal win over Canada (4,906 fans) and the gold-medal game (4,923) – were the two largest crowds in the UP Center’s young history.

“The last two crowds were great, and some U.S. players said they had never been in a game where it was so loud,” said Kali Mork, the UP Center’s ticket and special events director. “People from USA Hockey and the IIHF said they hoped they would be back.”

The tournament has been in Finland twice and Russia twice, but never at the same venue.

The U20 tournament was held in Grand Forks, N.D., and Thief River Falls, Minn., but Johnson said that had a different feel to it, according to some USA Hockey officials.

“(USA Hockey media director) Dave Fischer said that this was different because 95 percent of the fans were cheering for the United States,” Johnson said with a laugh. “In Grand Forks, there were a lot of Canadians, and they like to boo the Americans.

“Having the two sellouts at the end, and the two largest crowds we’ve ever had chanting ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ really topped it off.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548