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The question has been asked: “What’s that gigantic building on the east edge of Watford City?”

The Rough Rider Event Center

Springtime at the Rough Rider Event Center, Watford City.



The quick answer: The famous “Rough Rider Event Center, Watford City.” It is a 268,000-square-foot convention, recreation, and athletic facility.

But wait! There’s more!

I still have memories of chilly hockey games on the ice circuit cross North Dakota.  Some of the facilities such as at Minot and Bismarck were bearable, but most were not.  I wish my son was playing hockey now in the WDA as he did 15 years ago.  It would be a whole lot more comfortable.  In fact, it wasn’t too many months ago hockey fans in Watford City huddled in a chilly tin building to watch the regional hockey heroes battle it out on the ice. 

The Rough Rider Event Center

Now, there’s no better place to watch hockey than in Watford City. The Rough Rider Event Center is a $92-million building that blows my mind.  Inside are massively impressive meeting and convention facilities.

There are separate rooms, facilities, and halls for all kinds of events to happen at the same time at the Rough Rider Event Center.  When we were there a week ago, there were at least three events underway at the same time. Gathered in one corner the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.The Rough Rider Event Center

Down below was a Brewfest with brewers from across North Dakota and Montana.

The Rough Rider Event Center

To the south, that hockey game between two of the strongest towns in this part of the U.S. — Sidney, Montana and Watford City.

We were just visitors, but folks from Watford City can access the facility for all kinds of activities. volleyball, climbing wall, basketball, batting cage, and a walking track. There are two ice sheets for hockey, a multi-purpose field house for basketball, volleyball, and baseball with indoor turf for offseason practice. The gymnastics club is in the building. With the swimming pool is a leisure pool with a 135-foot long water slide and lazy river. Plus, there is a,  and a six (6) lane competition polo.

We’re looking forward to getting in on a concert in the acoustic concert hall — better than anything in this part of the state.The Rough Rider Event Center

Who pays?

At some point, a visitor like me has to ask. Wow — who is paying for this?  

The final price tag for the Rough Rider Center is about $92 million but adding the cost of the new high school next door, Watford City now boasts side-by-side facilities worth a total of about $140 million. The City Council voted to commit a share of the city’s 1.5-cent sales tax toward a $40 million bond payment, and the remaining $52 million will be covered by the city’s share of oil gross production tax revenue.50-percent of the city’s sales tax. 

I guess that’s the new economy.  As hearty and well-established is the region’s ranching economy, it took oil to make this happen

Here’s the full story.

The Rough Rider Event Center is one of the iconic pieces of architecture in the Beautiful Badlands.  Here is another one you can tour and climb on for free.