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Magazine: Ralph Engelstad Arena is the most visited tourist destination in North Dakota

GRAND FORKS - Ralph Engelstad Arena is apparently the most visited tourist destination in North Dakota, according to Midwest Living magazine's annual Best of the Midwest issue.

The magazine also listed Widman's Candy in Grand Forks and Lake Renwick in Icelandic State Park near Cavalier among best places to visit in the state.

With 3.8 million readers, that's a lot of publicity for the area.

What's interesting is Midwest Living said the arena, with 483,796 visitors annually, outranks Theodore Roosevelt National Park, with 456,588 visitors. The park has long been seen as the state's main tourist destination.

Chris Semrau, the arena's marketing director, said the number of visitors probably includes a lot of local Fighting Sioux hockey fans, though it doesn't include those that visit for daily tours. He said the magazine probably didn't include the Alerus Center or the Fargodome on the list of North Dakota tourist destinations.

Still, the No. 3 destination in North Dakota, the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, got only 20,000 visitors.

Julie Rygg, the head of the area's Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her office does get a lot of calls about the Ralph and, when there are big events there, such as last year's world curling tournament, the hotels are filled.

Since it opened in October 2001, the Ralph has had about 3.5 million ticketed visitors, Semrau said.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.