Our team just got back from the Minnesota North Star Regional at La Crosse and it was by far my (and many teammates) favorite regional I have ever had the opportunity to attend. For context on the regionals I have previously been to, I have competed at Duluth ('22, '23 NL), and Minneapolis (22 'NS), and I attended Ventura County Regional for a few hours on qualification day this year. Before I get into why I loved this regional so much, I first want to thank all of the volunteers who put it on to make it such an incredible experience for our and many other teams. I’m sure it was a lot of work to get this event to run, especially when drawing from a Minnesota based crew. The event was spectacular and it couldn’t have been run without y’all.
The regional was this great for many reasons.
First the venue at the La Crosse center is incredible for FRC competitions. Everything is close to each other. The hotels are just across the street, the pits are a short walk away from the field, which is easily accessed from the stands. All of the concessions at the venue were great, not to mention the incredible ice cream shop right outside the venue as well. Volume in the stands was also much more bearable compared to Duluth, and while it did get loud at times, especially when there was a lot of cheering, it overall felt much more in control.
Next is what I thought made the event truly great: the number of teams. NS@LX only had 39 teams, and this was a game changer for the event. This made everything so much better, in many ways. Starting with the obvious, each team got significantly more play time. At NL, each team only got 9 qualification matches, while here, every team got 13, significantly more, as well as many more practice matches. It was easier to find a time at the practice field, good spots in the stands, etc. It also caused the whole event to feel more chill, and much more relaxing. In general, only having 40 teams at the event helped create all of this, and we’d love to have this kind of opportunity again.
Now the question is, how do we get these kinds of opportunities to be more frequent in MN FRC? Almost all other MN Regionals have (or nearly have in the case of Great Northern) 60 teams, and having this regional over North Star at Minneapolis costed 40 teams an opportunity to play. For the sake of not beating the dead horse that is districts in Minnesota and devolving this thread into another un-constructive argument on the topic (name a more iconic duo than CD and arguing about districts in MN. I’ll wait.), I think there may be a way to get this to happen while stuck in the regional model. The answer in my opinion, to continue hosting North Star at La Crosse (perhaps under a different name), while bringing back North Star at Minneapolis.
(DISCLAIMER PORTION: I am a young, most likely naive student that does not realize just how much work goes into running a regional. From what I’ve heard, FIRST in MN has enough volunteers to do this, but I could be wrong, and very much so.
Edit : It turns out the whole “do we have enough volunteers?” thing is pretty contested here so like I still can’t tell if I’m right or wrong
Not to mention organizing and financing venues, as well as the countless other things that go into planning events that I don’t know about, and would love to help with once I graduate)
With that being said, I think that more regionals like NS@LX would be the best way forward. For example, with 40 extra plays added by adding that regional, only 50 teams would need to attend at each other regional, significantly increasing play time. If another 40 team regional was added years down the road, all events in MN would be able to be capped at this 40 team amount. Not only that, but it would allow more MN teams, who are historically vastly underrepresented at champs the opportunity to qualify, opening up 5 more slots.
Overall, if MN wants to stick with regionals, I think this is the way forward. The quality of team experience at NS@LX was so much higher do to all of these factors. Once again, thank you to all of the volunteers who helped make this event run, and to the RPC for scrambling the event together after Mariucci Arena closed down for renovation. It was due to all of y’alls hard work that this event could come together in the first place, giving our, and many other teams such a positive experience.