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Bemidji event center opens for business

A crew readies the sign for the new Bemidji Regional Event Center. (Monte Draper, Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- This is it.

The Bemidji Regional Event Center, under construction since April 2009, will open today.

The Bemidji State University hockey teams will officially christen the ice in their first home games of the season. The women will face off against Mercyhurst at 2:07 p.m. while the men will play at 7:37 p.m. against UND.

The men's game is a sellout and a crowd of 4,700 is expected to watch Bemidji State's first official game as a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"We will be ready (for opening) come Friday morning," said Bob LeBarron, executive director of the BREC.

But is he excited?

"We're exhausted," he said.

The hockey teams, anchor tenants of the BREC, will hold the first events in the 185,000-square-foot facility on the south shore of Lake Bemidji.

As such, BREC workers have developed a plan that they hope will ease the stresses of traffic and parking.

First, hockey-goers should be aware of a

$3 parking charge that will be required, in cash.

Exact change would be appreciated, LeBarron noted.

The parking charge, which will vary for different BREC events, does not apply to those who have a parking permit.

The Beaver Pride luncheon will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday in the BREC ballroom. To register for the luncheon, call (218) 755-2294.

LeBarron noted that those who attend the Beaver Pride luncheon will have to pay for parking, but they should retain their tickets if they leave and return for the men's game.

Those who will have to pay for parking are asked to utilize the Central Avenue entrance to the BREC, which is the closest entrance to the intersection of First Street and Paul Bunyan Drive.

Those with parking permits are asked to utilize the Grant Avenue entrance.

No tailgating will be permitted in the BREC parking lot.

LeBarron said staff can't control what the public does in every case.

But staff is working to minimize the issues as much as possible.

The game certainly has changed for people like Brad Folkestad, director of athletic media relations for Bemidji State.

"In the John Glas Fieldhouse we had room for 13 or 14 members of the media,"Folkestad said. "Our new press box is equipped to hold between 30 and 40, and surprisingly we've had to turn some outlets away because of the volume of requests we've had for this weekend."