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The X is A-OK and ready for business, following post-GOP spruce-up

Xcel Energy Center is ready to go Wild.
MinnPost photo by Joe Kimball
Xcel Energy Center is ready to go Wild.

The X is back. Back in shape, that is, for hockey and other events after a temporary assignment as home to the Republican National Convention.

Built as the home of the Minnesota Wild NHL team eight years ago, the Xcel Energy Center and accompanying RiverCentre complex, the X also has proved an excellent venue for concerts and other big events.

None has been bigger than the Sept. 1-4 convention. Everything in the building — hockey boards, vendor equipment, extra seats and more — was moved out for the Republicans.

And now, just 19 days later, the ice is laid, the seats that were removed for the stage and media are bolted in, and the suites have been restored to their original luster. All well in time for the Wild’s first home exhibition game Sept. 24.

So the transition has been made from politics to power plays. (Or was the convention itself a power play?)

Some residual effects remain. Tiny pieces of confetti still rain down from the rafters every once in a while, said Bill Robertson of the Wild. John McCain’s face is on the confetti, and building officials expect to see the stuff falling for weeks.

At least two pieces of the McCain confetti fell onto the rink area as the ice was being prepared last week and will stay buried under the ice as the season begins. (I guess either political party could boast about that.)

The Wild players won’t actually skate on the rebuilt rink until their first exhibition game next Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But some fans will get to skate on the ice Saturday: those who buy single-game tickets that day starting at 9 a.m. can skate until 1 p.m. The first person got in line for tickets Tuesday night, and there are about 10 tents set up already outside the arena.

(While season-ticket holders get most of the 18,000 seats for each game, the team keeps 2,000 tickets a game for Saturday’s individual sales. Last year, three games sold out within minutes.)

Having those Saturday ticket buyers — along with some youth teams that have been invited over the next few days — skate on the ice helps get it “NHL-ready,” Robertson said. Prior use conditions the ice and keeps it from having too many bouncing pucks, he said.

A few finishing touches remain around the arena — painters are touching up spots, and carpets in the suites and hallways are being cleaned.

“The building will be in better shape than it was before the convention because we’re giving it a real ‘spring cleaning.’ We’re dusting and touching up virtually everywhere,” said Kathy Ross of the Xcel staff.

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