Bemidji Regional Events Center: BREC open house impresses many

Branded with the words, "Boozoo" and "Welcome," the doors of Gate 2 were opened by attendants who greeted hundreds of people to the Bemidji Regional Event Center's Saturday.

Hockey fan Tyler Martens reaches over the railings for a high five from Bemidji State goalie Dan Bakala as he walks to the ice during the Bemidji State men's hockey team's intrasquad scrimmage Saturday afternoon at the Bemidji Regional Event Center. The scrimmage was part of the BREC open house event. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Branded with the words, "Boozoo" and "Welcome," the doors of Gate 2 were opened by attendants who greeted hundreds of people to the Bemidji Regional Event Center's Saturday.

Those who attended the BREC open house received a ticket at the door good for one free bag of popcorn, a soda and a ticket to see the Bemidji State University men's hockey scrimmage game. An open house is scheduled again today from 12-4 p.m.

In the main entryway, heads turned in all directions, taking in the colorful artwork, vibrant flooring, flat screened televisions along the wall and the crisp sound system from the hockey arena. A buzz of energy and excitement could be felt as popcorn was buttered, soda cups were filled and cheers filled the arena while the hockey scrimmage was in play.

Watching people walk across the tiled floor in the main entrance was artist Barbara Benson Keith of Lanesboro, Minn. She designed the flooring in the BREC, which featured shades of gold, rust, brown and green.

Keith said she drove the six hours to Bemidji just to see people use the floor for the first time.


"It's pretty cool to see people use it," Keith said. "There's so much to look at."

She noted she saw several people found the brass sandhill crane located on the floor near the convention center area particularly interesting.

Above Keith was a suspended piece of artwork by Alexander Tylevich of Tylevich Studio in St. Paul, which utilizes transparent materials and light-emitting diodes. It was Keith's first time viewing the artwork above the flooring.

Not too far away from where Keith was standing, a group of people were sorting through BSU apparel at the Beaver Dam shop.

Scott Schmidt, manager of the store, said the community should expect to see apparel and other BSU items for sale at the BREC that have never been sold before at BSU hockey games.

"I was afraid I was going to sell too much stuff today," Schmidt said during Saturday's open house. "We probably have about 60 percent of our inventory in right now and we have more coming this week, which makes me feel better. We'll have hockey jerseys, headwear and infant wear by next weekend."

According to Schmidt, the store is a partnership between Custom Silk Screening and BSU. A percentage of the sales will go directly to the BSU athletic department.

Around the corner from the Beaver Dam store, Alex Hein, his wife, Heidi, and his two children, Ben and Katelyn, had earlier gotten popcorn and soda from a concession stand. They later found a row of seats to sit and watch the zamboni smooth the ice before the BSU hockey scrimmage began.


Alex, who lives with his family in Nymore, said he was initially against the development of the BREC. But on Saturday, he and his family decided to see the building for themselves.

"For me, the BREC was a lot of money. I didn't think it would be worth it. But it's here now, and walking around, I like it," Hein said. "I think it's going to be great. We just want to make sure it's maintained, clean and can be enjoyed by everyone."

Heidi said she was still a little concerned about the traffic.

"We are used to a quiet street where kids can be outside without any concerns, and this makes it more of a concern," she said.

Despite their concerns over potential traffic issues, the Heins said they were overall very impressed with the building.

"I think it's cool," Ben said.

"Overall, I give it two thumbs up," Alex added.

Sitting on the opposite side of the hockey arena as the Heins were Steve and Toni Premo of Bemidji, who sat comfortably in their season ticket seats.


According to Steve, the best feature of their seating arrangement is that they are located in one of the corners of the rink. Their row only has two seats.

"I'm not a small guy and now I don't have to worry about sitting next to someone and bumping them while I reach for my pop," he said. "There's no seat next to me on one side."

Toni said she thought the BREC was "beautiful" and "very nice."

"It's great for Bemidji," Steve added.

The Premos said their son bought a ticket to see comedian Larry the Cable Guy perform on Nov. 17 at the BREC.

"I know he's really looking forward to that," Steve said.

Outside the BREC, open house goers were allowed to park anywhere in the parking lot, including the VIP parking area. Parking lot attendees were dressed in bright yellow and directed traffic.

One parking attendant said, for the most part, traffic flowed smoothly throughout the day, but the person did notice one car had trouble figuring out the roundabout located at the main general parking entrance and exit.


Throughout the afternoon, people walked from one end of the BREC to the other, touring the convention center and the ballroom, taking in the view of Lake Bemidji from the meeting rooms and cheering on the hockey team inside the arena.

"It's pretty awesome," BSU student Erik Bergsven of Bemidji said of the BREC. "I'll be at every one of the games here."

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