This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday I spent most of my time at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul. I was covering the Minneota Vikings volleyball team in the state volleyball tournament. It is a great venue for this event and I love being there.
For three years in a row the Minneota volleyball team has made it to state. The Minnesota High School League does a great job of running the tournament, it actually was the 20th year the MSHSL and the Excel Energy Center have worked together to host the tournament. There are many reasons why I like this venue.
I usually stay at my daughter’s house during the tournament instead of staying in a motel. Brianna and Seth only live about twenty minutes from the Excel Energy Center. It’s a very easy and scenic drive from Brianna’s house to the Excel. You drive along Shepherd Road which is along the Mississippi River. You come in behind the Excel Energy Center and Science Museum and park in the large parking ramps. I always park on level 2, then take the elevator to the River Center Skyway. Once inside the River Center you walk through a set of doors and you are in the Excel Energy Center. As I walk through the doors the media pass table is right there and I pick up my media credentials.
I gained a friend going through security, he’s a large African American man and has a great sense of humor. He greeted me every day with “Good morning radio man!” He then asked me to put my cell phone and keys in the box and walk through the metal detector. I informed him I have a heart pacemaker and he said, “well that’s a good thing then”. Every day he would search my back pack that contains my radio equipment and each day while he would be talking to me he would take something out of my bag and put in his pocket, like batteries or papers. He would say, “you don’t need these do you?” I always responded, “Yes I do.” Saturday I had a blue Gatorade inside my back pack and he said, “No food or drink are supposed to be brought into the stadium radio man!” I said, “Well then you can drink it,” and he responded with, “I hate blue Gatorade so I guess you can keep it.”
I use the elevator to go from the main concourse to the arena floor. Only authorized personal are allowed on the arena floor and I have to show them my media wrist band. Inside the elevator is a woman who sits on a chair and greets you then pushes the button for what floor you want. Every day she was so nice to me always asking about me and what team I was covering. She was a very pleasant lady, but I wouldn’t want her job riding an elevator all day.
The walk from the elevator to the volleyball courts is short. Before you get to the volleyball courts you can go into the media room which is really a large cafeteria area for press to eat and gather to do their work. They have a full-time chef in the kitchen. Next to the media room is the press conference room where you interview the coaches and athletes. Everything is very close together which is good. Broadcasting from the Excel Energy Center floor is pretty cool. You’re in what people call press row with other radio and newspaper people. For a day or two you feel like you’re on a national broadcast team working in a pro environment.
Another great experience at the Excel Energy Center thanks to the Minneota Vikings volleyball team. Back to back state championships! I was thinking on the drive home just how kind everyone was to me. From all the workers at the Excel Energy Center, along with the MSHSL staff. I am very appreciative of all the kind words from the Minneota fans as well. With what is going on around the world with all the hate, it was refreshing to spend a few days with people that were kind to one another and me. Excel Energy Center is the place for kindness.