The Minnesota Wild is a professional ice hockey team based in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. They are members of the Central Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The Wild are the only one of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area's major professional sports league franchises to play in St. Paul; the other three play in Minneapolis.
The team was founded on June 25, 1997, but started playing in the 2000-01 NHL season. The Wild were the first NHL franchise in Minnesota since the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993. They lost their first game, 3–1, to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and recorded their first win against the Tampa Bay Lightning five games later. The Wild play at the Xcel Energy Center. In the 2002–03 season, the team made its first Stanley Cup playoff appearance, making a surprising run to the Western Conference Finals. As of 2015, the Wild have averaged a .538 points percentage since entering the league.
The Xcel Energy Center (also known as "The X") is a multi-purpose arena, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It is named for its locally based corporate sponsor Xcel Energy. With an official capacity of 17,954, the arena has four spectator levels: one suite level and three general seating levels.
The arena is owned by the city of Saint Paul and operated by Minnesota Sports & Entertainment. The building is home to the NHL's Minnesota Wild and is the former home of the NLL's Minnesota Swarm. It is on the same block as the RiverCentre convention facility, Roy Wilkins Auditorium and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, in downtown St. Paul. It also served as official home to the 2008 Republican National Convention.
The arena opened on September 29, 2000. It was built on the site of the demolished St. Paul Civic Center. The push for a new arena in Saint Paul grew after the National Hockey League's Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas. Saint Paul unsuccessfully courted the NHL's Hartford Whalers and Winnipeg Jets under Mayor Norm Coleman, but the Civic Center was an obstacle to both deals.
In order to get an NHL expansion team, Saint Paul needed to build a new arena. After several failed attempts to get funding, the project was funded by the state in April 1998. The state gave Saint Paul a no interest loan for $65 million of the $130 million project, though the state forgave $17 million of that loan in exchange for high school sports championships played at the arena.
In 2004, it was named by ESPN as the best overall sports venue in the U.S. The 10 millionth person passed through the gates on July 3, 2007.
The Twin Cities were selected as the hosting metropolis for the 2008 Republican National Convention on September 27, 2006 and the arena was chosen as the main venue. The Republican National Convention was held here on September 1–4.
In 2010, a Minnesota Wild game at the 'X' was listed as the third best stadium experience in North America, according to the ESPN Magazine. First on the list went to the Minnesota Twins and Target Field.
The arena played host to the politically motivated Vote for Change Tour on October 5, 2004, featuring performances by Bright Eyes, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (with special guest John Fogerty and unannounced guest Neil Young).