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Xcel Center welcomes back pro hockey with fresh ice

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Travis Larson
Ice operations manager Travis Larson stood beside refrigeration units cooling the floor of the Xcel Energy Center, getting it ready to host the Minnesota Wild's 7th season. The Republican National Convention's lease on the arena expired at midnight last night.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Two weeks after the Republican National Convention, the Xcel Energy Center is turning back into a hockey arena.

The Republicans' lease on the Xcel ended at midnight Wednesday. Crews have already reinstalled about 3,000 seats that were removed for the convention, as well as fixtures and lights that had to be changed for the Republican gathering.

XCel Energy Center
XCel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul
MPR photo/Tom Weber

"It's hard to believe that just a couple weeks ago confetti was falling from the ceiling," said the Xcel's Kathy O'Connor. "We actually had folks go in and test every seat to make sure its properly secured and back in working condition. You know, we're still working steadily in all of the suites, we're testing different lighting things just to make sure that everything is back and ready to go on opening night for the Wild."

In a week, the Minnesota Wild will open its hockey preseason in St. Paul against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The dasher boards and glass are already up and the scoreboard is hanging over what will be center ice. 

Down in the refrigeration room, the arena's ice operations manager, Travis Larson, was monitoring the chilling equipment, which is cooling the floor to 17 degrees. He said skaters will take to the ice on Saturday morning.

"We'll have it ready for after some fine tuning with it and all that stuff," said Larson. "So we've got an open skate for those purchasing tickets and for the season ticket holders to help break it in."

Some of those fans were already lining up outside the ticket office on Kellogg Boulevard Wednesday morning.