QUICK DECC DIVE: Chat with AMSOIL Architect of Record – Brian Morse

With the NCAA Division I Women’s Frozen Four coming up on March 17 and 19, it’s a good time to talk about the arena. After all, it was rated number one by Stadium Journey for a “near-perfect college hockey experience” shortly after it opened.   

But before the awards and fanfare, there was a lot of hustle and elbow grease. Late in 2009, there were details to finish before opening day. UMD Men’s Hockey was to take on the University of North Dakota to a sellout crowd on Dec 30, 2010. 

One of the tasks was to finish the bar area in the Suites Lounge. Given that the project was designed for conservation (AMSOIL is LEED Silver certified), it made sense to incorporate reused materials. 

View from the Suites Lounge

“There were about 600 pieces of geometric blocks of salvaged wood from two local yards,” said Brian Morse of TKDA, a local architecture firm. As AMSOIL Arena’s architect of record, he and others collaborated with arena architects POPULOUS.

The project’s white oak was from the deconstruction of the Old Globe grain elevators built in 1887. In addition, you can look what I found for the equipment they might have used. Duluth Timber provided the redwood and fir. The team had the idea for a mosaic. Using wood pieces behind the bar, it would contrast the steel and hard finishes in the building.

Brian Morse in the Suites Lounge

The idea was popular but proved difficult to bid out with a contractor given it was more art than construction. Morse volunteered to build it himself ––first sketching it on a 3D modeling program and later sanding and sealing each block multiple times. Using hanging panels in his garage, he fit the individual wood pieces like a puzzle, curating the placements to showcase the wood’s imperfections. 

Brian Morse inspecting woodcuts in the suite’s lounge

“I wanted people to see the natural splits and places where the washers had been. Also, I love the end-grain views where you can see the growth rings and appreciate how very old these trees are. In a way I wanted the installation to represent the approximate 600 tradesmen and women that built the arena. True beauty is within; that sort of thing.” 

When it came time to mount them in the lounge, Morse brought along his son Braden, then 17. The pair worked a few weeks of evenings and then a big push as the AMSOIL opening neared. They pulled a couple of all-nighters with Brian saying, “It’s the first time I had an energy drink. They were new back then.”  Today Brian handles the pieces with some reflection. He points out that some of the blocks are signed on the back by the construction workers who built the arena. But also special was the time he spent on the project with his son.  

Braden passed away unexpectedly at the age of 30 in January of 2023. His obituary notes his artistic talent and the joy he found working with his hands. Brian says, “We enjoyed the time we had in the shop and on-site making this installation. I’m glad we had some quality time together with that project.” 



NCAA Division I Women’s Frozen Four