ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Winterizing Michigan Stadium to host what could be more than 110,000 people for a major event in frigid conditions is one major obstacle the NHL and University of Michigan officials had to clear to pave the way for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Michigan Stadium is typically shut down for the winter after the Wolverines' final home football game. The water is drained from all the stadium facilities and the plumbing and electricity are turned off for fear that the cold weather would force a pipe to burst.
However, "The Big Chill at the Big House," played Dec. 11, 2010, gave school officials an idea of what to do in order to get the building operational again after it went dark in late November.
Michigan's last home football game in 2010 was on Nov. 20. The stadium was essentially turned off after that game, but turned back on to get ready for the hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State. That experience paid big dividends this month when the NHL rolled into town to begin preparations for the New Year's Day event.
"We learned some lessons of what we do, don't do and what we need to do," Michigan associate athletic director of facilities and operations Rob Rademacher told NHL.com. "We took that and kind of just continued it for this game to make sure the facility is ready to go and we have 110,000 people coming in here Wednesday."
However, Don Renzulli, the NHL's Executive Vice President of Events, said earlier Sunday that the expected drop in temperature to the low teens was forcing university officials to consider draining the building and turning off the plumbing and electricity again, at least for a little while, to preserve the winterization of the stadium.
The only water they want freezing inside the stadium is down on the field, where NHL Senior Director of Facilities Operations Dan Craig and his crew are continuing to spray a fine mist of water on the surface to thicken the ice surface.
"Plumbers and electricians are on site to make sure the water in the bathrooms and elsewhere is not going to freeze," Renzulli said. "[The U of M] have the operational staff to make sure the stadium is operational because, don't forget, they shut it down normally."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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