Building Winning Spaces for the Minnesota Wild

Mark Anger’s passions for architecture and hockey come together in cool success to ensure a positive experience for both the players and fans

Mark Anger proudly shows the fans' view of TRIA rink Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn

Playing “pond hockey” as a Minnesotan kid, Mark Anger developed an affinity for the speed and challenge of skates and pucks flying across the frozen surface. Now the facilities development project manager for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild hockey team, he combines that love of the game with years of architectural experience. The results are facilities enjoyed by the team and fans alike.

Anger has honed his skills over the years and describes his architectural process as being inspired by teamwork, care, passion, and the excellence that creating a strong and useful space demands. 

After nearly two decades with Ellerbe Becket Architects, the firm where Anger began his career, he had the opportunity to travel to Buffalo, New York, to be the onsite architect for the construction of Buffalo Sabres’ arena. Based on the success of the Sabres’ project, Anger was tapped to head to Sunrise, Florida, for the development of the new arena of the Florida Panthers. In 1998, with two arenas under his belt, he left Ellerbe Becket and returned home to the Land of 10,000 Lakes to be part of the development team for the Minnesota Wild’s Xcel Energy Center. A lifelong fan of the game of hockey, this amounted to a dream job for Anger. His main focus for this was to oversee the architects and contractors on the project, but he took on the added responsibility of designing the locker rooms, suites, press box, and scoreboard.

The Xcel Energy Center is home to the Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn

In addition to the Xcel Energy Center, Anger also designed the Wild’s new practice facilities in downtown St. Paul, known as TRIA Rink. The building, formerly a mid-century department store, has transformed over time into a mixed-use facility now occupied by a two-story Walgreens, a brewpub, restaurants, office space, and now the Minnesota Wild. The hockey rink itself, located on the top level, also serves as practice space to local college teams, men’s leagues, youth teams, and other skating events. Anger is excited about the impact the space has on the community, even providing rink time to the urban youth club known as the Dinomights.

Anger worked with RJM Construction to oversee the feat of putting in an ice rink on the fifth level. “We had a great working relationship with them,” he says, citing RJM as an invaluable part of the development of the space. The rink itself features an ammonia ice system which has the quickest recovery time, an important feature in a facility like TRIA rink.

With sweeping views of the city through energy-saving electrochromic glass (which adjusts its tint based on the sun’s rays), six public locker rooms, and seating for 1,000, Anger has plenty of reasons to be proud of both his team and RJM. Not to mention, Anger adds, “Part of the construction was done with other tenants occupying parts of the building.”

It’s down on the L-0 level that Anger’s work truly shines. Connected to the rink on L-5 by high-speed elevators, the team’s locker room space is 22,800 square feet of state-of-the-art design. Anger fit a weight room, 40-yard turf track, theater, kitchen, and training room with two thermal plunge pools and a therapy pool around an added challenge. “There are three-foot diameter columns throughout the space,” he says. While those physical disruptions may not be remembered as fondly throughout the development, Anger and his team were equipped to handle each one and he proudly reports that the players love the space and have been full of compliments.

Mark Anger stands in the Minnesota Wild’s locker room facilities Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn

Once the facilities have been completed, “It’s my job to keep them fresh and new,” says Anger. “With the everchanging technology we need to evolve things to keep up with those changes as well as find ways to increase revenue and provide a more secure building for our fans.” For example, he recently oversaw a $1 million seat replacement and a $6.4 million scoreboard and LED fascia board update in the Xcel Energy Center.

Anger has a number of new projects in the lineup. He has been in talks with the Wild’s Iowa affiliate team about a new practice facility. Back home at the Xcel Energy Center, he is working on rebranding the arena’s main gates as well as a new all-inclusive ice-level club space.

For Anger this means designing, finding partners, overseeing projects, and making sure spaces remain versatile. He loves hockey because, as he says, “The game is fast, exciting, and constantly moving.” Stepping back, this is a fitting way to describe the work Anger does for both his construction and hockey teams—his architectural dream job.