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About Us


Our Thief River Falls facilities provide a diverse and positive economic impact to the City of Thief River Falls, by hosting live spectator events, banquets, meetings, trade shows, conferences and conventions and most of all hockey. The Ralph staff actively strives to maintain a facility that provides a diverse, exceptional and positive guest experience.

The Ralph Engelstad Arena, Huck Olson Memorial Civic Center, MEC (Multi Events Center) and Tourist Park Campground are managed by VenuWorks of Thief River Falls. VenuWorks provides comprehensive management solutions and consulting expertise for arenas, theatres, and convention centers throughout North America. VenuWorks is one of the three largest public assembly management firms in the United States, guiding the activities of 40 venues across the country. In 2010 approximately 2.3 million people attended over 9,000 events at VenuWorks facilities. Behind every theatre, arena, and convention center ever built, there was a dream and a promise. VenuWorks unlocks those dreams and fulfills those promises.


It is the mission of VenuWorks of Thief River Falls, LLC to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of the region, by means of the facilities we manage, by providing a gathering place for cultural, recreational and educational events with a positive impact on the community of Thief River Falls.

VenuWorks Mission Statement

It is the mission of VenuWorks to maximize the presentation of successful events in client facilities for the cultural, recreational, educational and economic benefit of the communities we serve.


Our core management philosophy is centered on events, the lifeblood of a successful public assembly facility, and that philosophy is central to our mission statement. VenuWorks is dedicated to delivering fun at all of its facilities and making memorable experiences for our patrons. Patrons who have satisfying and exciting experiences and memories at the facilities we manage will return again and again and will bring their friends with them.

Our commitment is built on four principles:

  • Our knowledge and experience in working with all aspects of facility management and consulting.
  • Our customized approach that offers each client the best solutions.
  • Our transparency in how we work with our clients with the highest ethical standards.
  • Our tenacious approach to make every venue successful.
Learn more by visiting VenuWorks.com

Ralph Engelstad Arena Facts and History

Donation: $13,500,000 donated by Ralph & Betty Engelstad
Total Project Cost: Estimated at $15,000,000 (PLUS $400,000 for HOMCC)
Donation: Dondelinger Foundation (Zamboni)
Fund Raiser: To raise approximately 2 million
Location: 525 Brooks Ave N
Architect: Schoen Associates Grand Forks - Jim Kobetsky & Bill Schoen

Arena Dimensions:
Site - 1,050,000 S.F. Footprint - 83,000 S.F. (HOMCC is about 55,000 S.F.)
Gross S.F. 147,215 (plus 4,840 for community room) Total Height: 60' (Ice level to top of roof)
Miles of pipe: 15 miles of 3/4 pipe 185-ton total columns & rafter weight
Ice level to Ceiling Height: (Bottom of rafters) HOMCC 26' REA 48'

Arena Specifics:
System: Calcium chloride Sub Floor Heat:17" below the ice floor
Membrane: Drain tile & membrane on foundation
Parking: 1000 Spaces on-site
Elevator: 1 - 5,000 lb capacity 1 - exterior loading dock

On February 4, 2002, a formal announcement was made by Architect Jim Kobetsky from Schoen Associates in Grand Forks, North Dakota, that Ralph and Betty Engelstad from Las Vegas, Nevada were donating $10 million towards the construction of a multi-purpose facility with a focus on hockey. The City Council accepted the Engelstad’s gift at their February 12, 2002 Council meeting. As the scope of the project grew so did the need for additional funds. A local fundraising campaign began in September of 2002 and raised $2,800,000 through cash and in-kind donations to complete the project. The arena was dedicated on November 29, 2003. In June of 2005, construction of the community room was completed and proudly bears the name “Imperial Room”. It will host wedding receptions, trade shows, meetings, parties and other events. A basketball floor and arena decking were purchased in 2005 to enable the facility to host basketball games, wrestling matches, and other events. Following completion of the project, the Engelstad family donated over $13 million!

We thank Ralph and Betty Engelstad for their generosity to the community of Thief River Falls. While simply saying "thank you" seems so inadequate, we do indeed thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are proud of Thief River Falls, we are proud that you, Ralph, claim Thief River Falls as your hometown, and we are proud to claim you as one of our own.

The facility features a 200' x 85' ice sheet, theatre-style seating complimented by 281 bar stools along the perimeter of the bowl for a total seating capacity of 3,593, (2) concession areas, (8) locker rooms, hospitality room, weight room, Frappier Acceleration skating treadmill, training/first aid rooms, walking track with Mondo flooring, 156' x 60' main lobby with granite floors and brass ceiling, a hall of fame area that includes a bronze Ralph Engelstad goalie sculpture, (4) offices and ticket windows, press box with meeting space, elevator accessible to all levels, and an 4,840 sq. foot community room. Gross square footage of the facility is 1,050,000.

About Ralph...
Ralph Engelstad was born on January 28, 1930 in Thief River Falls to Christian and Madeline Engelstad. He attended Northrop and St. Bernard’s Elementary Schools. It was here he developed his love for the sport of hockey, built lasting friendships and learned the values of honest dealings, loyalty, hard work and perseverance. He was an outstanding freshman goalie on the TRF team, which played in the first sanctioned state high school hockey tournament in 1945. Ralph graduated from Lincoln High School in 1948. He went on to play goalie for the University of North Dakota graduating in 1954.

Ralph married Betty Stocker of East Grand Forks in 1954, and their only child, a daughter Kris, was born in 1958. After a half a dozen years as a contractor in Grand Forks, and attaining the millionaire status he aspired to reach, Ralph sold virtually all of his property and other holdings and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1959. Ralph became a very successful businessman in Las Vegas after building and selling hundreds of homes in housing developments. In 1971 Ralph purchased and remodeled the bankrupt Flamingo Capri Motel, was granted his Nevada Gaming License and a short time later began building the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino on the Flamingo Capri property. The Imperial Palace was ranked as the second-largest sole proprietorship in the world with 2,700 rooms and 2,600 employees. Although he has achieved unparalleled success in the business world and accumulated great wealth after moving from our area, he has never forgotten his roots and his hometown. Over the years, Ralph and Betty Engelstad have made a number of generous donations to Thief River Falls and its citizens. Thief River Falls collectively is overwhelmed by the announcement of this latest gift.

Ralph Engelstad passed away on November 26, 2002 from lung cancer. With Ralph Engelstad’s death at the age of 72, Thief River Falls lost its most well known native son as well as a major benefactor, but he left a legacy of loyalty and caring that exceeded his personal generosity. The trait Ralph treasured most among his friends and associates was loyalty, and he was fiercely loyal to his hometown and to the game of hockey that he loved. Throughout his memorable career, Ralph had two mottos for living that reflected his ambition and drive: “The harder I work, the luckier I get”, and “No dream comes true until you wake up and go to work”. His hometown can only say most sincerely the words, “Thanks, Ralph!"

Ralph's Philosophy of Giving: "I don't do it for the publicity. I guess I do it for my own self-satisfaction, for the good feeling it gives me. It's helping others and I hope it gives them the insight that they could probably do the same. I want to leave the idea that you need to work hard to succeed."

"I have been very fortunate in life and I have tried to help others the same as I am trying to help Thief River Falls with this new arena. I hope that my gift is an inspiration to others to give and help others when they are able."

Ralph Engelstad
January 28, 1930 – November 26, 2002

Our Partners

Thief River Falls Amateur Hockey Associa
Thief River Falls Baseball
Thief River Falls School District #564
Thief River Falls Skating Club
Elite Athletix
City of Thief River Falls
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