Rough Rider Events Center

Watford City, North Dakota

With a town motto like, “Come Be Our Guest,” it’s no surprise that Watford City is now home to a new statewide events and convention center with arenas for hockey, figure skating, and roller skating, basketball and volleyball courts, a fieldhouse with removable turf for soccer and baseball, a lap pool and a leisure pool, a 1,000-capacity convention center, a 3,000-seat auditorium, a running/walking track, a rock climbing wall, laser tag, and six bounce houses. The Center also includes a new artificial turf football stadium and a gymnastics club.

Designed by JLG Architects, the Rough Rider Center is situated on a hilltop site with dramatic views of the prairie, and sited to maximize daylighting while creating a shared, protected south-facing entry courtyard to shelter it from the strong northwest prairie winds. The plan organization takes advantage of the sloping site; the main concourse serves as a viewing area to the athletic venues located on the lower level, while also allowing for convenient top-loading of the spectator seating. A single concourse feeds all spaces – widening and opening to the football field and the prairie beyond, and then tapering to reduce square footage as traffic lessens. The basketball, fieldhouse, and hockey sheets are aligned to allow them to open up with one another to create contiguous convention space.

The glulam structure is a modern, sustainable interpretation of traditional western plains timber construction, and a light tan precast was selected to compliment the prairie grasses. Inside, maple paneling provides a warm and inviting glow, and splashes of dark-stained birdseye maple and blue penny tile add cool contrast to the warm wood. Large floor openings were placed to create a strong connection between the main and lower level concourses, and high-efficiency glazing and horizontal mullion extensions reduce solar heat gain. Clerestory lighting above the fieldhouse and hockey sheets bring in additional natural light from above.

The Rough Rider Center grew from a desire to build togetherness in a once-quiet western North Dakota town that had seen a boom in oil production and population in only a few years’ time. The City of Watford City partnered with the McKenzie County School District, who was in the process of building a new high school on an open site with room for an adjacent center, to celebrate this “fresh” community by creating a sports and events center that would not only serve local residents, but also attract visitors and revenue from around the region for tournaments, concerts, and entertainment, who would also keep Watford City’s hotels, restaurants, and shops buzzing year-round.


Awards & Certifications

  • 2015 – AIA North Dakota: Honor Award
  • 2017 – North Dakota Trailblazer: Award for Tourism Innovation

Completion Date


"You deserve a huge thank you for what you did for us. This was an immense undertaking and your guidance and advice were exactly what we needed. We were incredibly blessed to have JLG as our architect!"
– Curt Moen, City Planner