WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 13, 2010, 08:49 AM

Recently hired general manager ready to take the UP Center to the next level

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The Urban Plains center has a new man in charge: and this time around, the job description is much different. Recently hired general manager Jon Kram says he wants to take this barely three-year-old team and facility to another level. He says he has two goals: Make every Fargo Force game an entertainment experience and getting more non-hockey events into the U-P.

His resume boasts 14 years for the retail giant, Target, where Jon Kram oversaw 10 stores with more than one-thousand employees. So how does this translate to hockey?

JON KRAM: "The piece that I can bring is the business side and the leadership piece. Target is known for one of the top developers of talent and that's what I'm going to bring."

A hockey fan; Langdon, North Dakota native and MSUM grad, this leader knows the area well. But what sealed the deal: his business sense and foreseeable ability to bring other acts in as well as getting people into the games.

KATHY BORGE: "There are certainly a lot of opportunities that are basically untapped that we need to get concentrated on."

Last season they were sixth in attendance in the USHL, averaging 32-hundred fans a game. But with new gimmicks like college night and cash games for kids, they're hoping to bump that number up.

KRAM: "People have to come out and see that and feel that because it's something that Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding areas can really take advantage of."

Officials are hoping the new hire will help fill these seats far beyond the 30 annual hockey games.

KATHY BORGE: "We need somebody, not necessarily just for hockey. This facility is so much more than hockey. So we were looking for somebody with proven leadership that can bring this to the next level."

One of the biggest concerns is parking. There are 380 spots currently being built to be share between the U-P Center and the new Sanford-YMCA. That will add up to about 11-hundred spots for fans, but they have no plans to pave the overflow gravel lot on the west side. They hope to build a 4-rink youth hockey arena there eventually.

People we talked to today say they agree with the new plan of more entertainment between periods and a greater variety of events. Some fans say the U-P has an advantage over other major venues, like the Fargodome, because they have closer free parking and easier shuttle service.

"In between periods, like crowd involvement and stuff like that, they've done good, but they can always improve."

"Something to get the crowd into the spirit of the game."

"They're starting to restaurants out there, there's going to be a lot more opportunity of growth out there because we've got a lot of that area out there."

The Force home opener is October 15th.