Construction Underway For Winter Classic Rink

20 Dec

CITIZENS BANK PARK — Just because it’s the fifth time the NHL has gone through building a rink for the Winter Classic doesn’t mean it will go without hiccups or challenges. Take Monday for instance — an NHL crew rolled up to Citizens Bank park with a 53-foot tractor trailer carrying the world’s largest mobile rink refrigeration unit. Upon pulling into Hartranft Street, there was one problem: a Ford Explorer that was left unattended in the very place where the ice truck needs to be for the next two weeks.

Eventually, the SUV was moved and things got started. It was the first, and hopefully the last, hiccup as crews begin making the home of the Phillies the home of the Flyers. The first step is laying down panels on the grass where the rink will be.

“The whole setup will take approximately 300 panels,” said Dan Craig, NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations. “These panels are 30 feet long by 30 inches wide and we’ll push probably 1,500 gallons of glycol through per minute from the truck down onto the floor.”

The glycol will be pumped out not so much to cool the area, but to remove the heat. The 300-ton refrigeration trailer is where the hot air is pumped out and the glycol pumped in.

There is tubing running from the truck into the building, down some makeshift scaffolding in right-center field, under a set of auxiliary rafters covering Ashburn Alley, and down onto the field where there will be two rinks — the NHL rink and an auxiliary rink near home plate that is much smaller.

“On the main rink there will be a six-inch main and what we do is we hook the panels onto these hoses,” said Craig. “It’s just a quick connect here and the glycol, which is just a simple antifreeze, gets pumped through here into the panel. It’s an aluminum panel, which is a very quick, fast-freezing element we use.”

The rink is still in its elementary stages. The boards are scheduled to be completed by Thursday so that overnight the rink can be flooded with an inch of ice. Of course, Mother Nature has to cooperate through all this. That is one of very few factors of which Craig has no control.

“It looks like it’s gonna be warmer during the day so we might as well use the benefit of being down into the 40s and high-30s to make a good sheet of ice,” he said. “You won’t see a whole lot of work, if you watch the webcam, on the ice surface itself during the day. It will happen, a lot of it at night, probably by security lighting and so on because that’s the best time for us to work.”

Then, after a two-day break over the weekend, the surface will be painted white and flooded again. By the 28th, Craig hopes to have sponsor logos and lines painted on the ice. On the 30th, the ice will be skated on. That is actually a very important part of getting the rink set up for the game on Jan. 2.

“It doesn’t matter where you are. It doesn’t matter what facility you’re in,” said Craig. “You always try to, especially if you have a bigger club skating on it, you want to make sure you have it chewed up a little bit so we can basically heal it, let it heal itself and flood it back up. Density on a sheet of ice is the No. 1 thing we deal with.”

But the rink isn’t the only part of the experience. While Craig is inside, getting a crew of workers to complete the venue, NHL Senior Vice President of Events & Entertainment Don Renzulli is busy creating the ambiance of the outdoor events.

Part of his job is making the inside look like a hockey rink instead of a baseball diamond. That will include giant hockey sticks, a puck that is 35-feet in diameter as part of an “extensive decor program.”

But that’s only the inside. Outside Citizens Bank Park will be a spectator plaza that will open on Dec. 31, the day of the alumni game.

“We will open that up the fans, our sponsors,” said Renzulli. “There will be merchandise, a band, video board, food and beverage — really a place to go enjoy yourself prior to the game. So once it gets opened for alumni game on the 31st, that will stay open right through until we drop the puck on about 1:28 [p.m.] on January 2nd.”

With each day, more progress is made and the less Citizens Bank Park looks like the home of the Phillies. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins had a press conference on Monday to announce his new contract, but he is willing to share his home for an outdoor NHL game — for a little while anyway.

“That’s pretty cool,” said Rollins. “These Flyers fans, they are die hard. For them to be treated to an outdoor game, the way hockey was probably played when these guys were kids with the wind blowing and just having these unpredictable conditions — maybe even snowfall that day — will be a lot of fun.

“But when the game is over, obviously come dig it up and replace it.”

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