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Fall 2013

The ticket to success at “The Ralph”

A Grand Forks sports arena scores a goal with the addition of a Toolcat utility work machine and attachments for indoor and outdoor grounds maintenance tasks

UND Maintenance Supervisor Butch Schuler

UND Maintenance Supervisor Butch Schuler

Hockey is a beloved sport in North Dakota, so much so that the men’s and women’s hockey teams at the University of North Dakota (UND) play the game in the heralded on-campus Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D. It could be considered the Taj Mahal of hockey arenas. The $104 million facility opened in 2001 and seats approximately 11,600 guests for athletic activities as well as non-athletic events, such as concerts and the annual circus.

Commonly known in the area as “The Ralph,” the arena is a one-of-a-kind facility, with granite flooring, deluxe spectator seats made of cherry wood and leather upholstery, a multitude of escalators and TV monitors throughout to make sure visitors don’t miss any of the action. The arena was built by the late Ralph Engelstad, an alumnus of UND and self-made millionaire who owned casino-hotels in Las Vegas and Mississippi.

Preserving the arena is a full-time job for Maintenance Supervisor Butch Schuler and his five full-time employees. He’s been with the arena since the day it opened and is responsible for many of the special handcrafted carpentry projects throughout the facility. His choice of compact equipment is Bobcat, and a ToolcatTM 5600 utility work machine and a Bobcat® utility vehicle are at his and his employees’ disposal for daily maintenance projects.

All-wheel steer eliminates marks

One of the primary responsibilities for the Toolcat 5600 is repainting the ice. Schuler says the 5600 with all-wheel steer drive is ideal for painting the ice because it doesn’t skid or slide. “You don’t want to slide on the ice because you’ll leave rubber marks,” Schuler says, “so we operate in all-wheel steer mode for simple and easy turns.” Schuler pulls a trailer behind the 5600 to evenly apply the paint to the ice prior to hockey events.

Moving outside the facility, Schuler operates the Toolcat 5600 and attachments for snow removal in winter. He says he is responsible for clearing snow and ice from the plaza, sidewalks and gated parking lot adjacent to the UND campus. “If we get a lot of snow, I like to use the bucket,” he says, “but the angle broom is good for cleaning off the concrete, sweeping it away so it doesn’t melt during the day and refreeze at night.”

Summer landscaping tasks

Several part-time employees work through summer and operate the Toolcat 5600 for outdoor landscaping projects. Schuler says the machine is so simple to operate that it doesn’t take long for new operators to get the hang of it.

“We’ll put landscaping mulch in the cargo box, haul it around the facility and the crew will dump it in certain spots,” he says.

Two people can sit in the enclosed, air-conditioned cab of the Toolcat 5600 while the operator drives from one project to the next one — another reason for its popularity in buildings and grounds applications.