ST. LOUIS - Since construction was completed in 2006, Busch Stadium has been known as Baseball Heaven.
Starting today and continuing through Jan. 8, now it's also Hockey Heaven.
The NHL's Winter Classic Ice Plant arrived Thursday on a 53-foot tractor tailer, which carries a one-of-a-kind mobile refrigeration unit that will power the outdoor ice surface used for the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which pits the St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks in one of the biggest sports events of the year on Jan. 2, 2017.
According to the NHL, construction begins by placing custom-made aluminum trays on the field at Busch Stadium. Those trays will be chilled by pumping as much as 3,000 gallons of glycol coolant into them. Once chilled, the boards are constructed and approximately 20,000 gallons of tap water (the same water you find in your homes!) is sprayed across the playing surface in hundreds of thin layers.
Video: Craig explains how outdoor rinks are built
Unlike NHL arenas - where the ice surface is typically 1 to 1.25 inches thick - the outdoor rinks have to be built to withstand extreme weather conditions. The Winter Classic will require an ice surface that is two inches thick.
Once the ice is built, it will be painted white with 350 gallons of water-soluble paint before the lines and logos are added. Finally, another layer of ice will be built on top.
The whole process is overseen by Dan Craig, the NHL's Senior Director of Facilities, who ensures the quality of the NHL's 30 ice surfaces. He joined the NHL in 1997 after a stint with the Edmonton Oilers and had been the point-person for all of the NHL's outdoor games. Craig will be assisted by Scottrade Center's ice maintenance team in keeping the ice at optimal conditions leading up to the game.
The Winter Classic will be televised in the United States on NBC and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada on Jan. 2 at noon CT. In addition, the Winter Classic Alumni Game will be held Dec. 31 at 1:30 p.m. at Busch Stadium and will feature Blues legends such as Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Bernie Federko and Al MacInnis as they battle the Chicago Blackhawks Alumni outdoors.
The Blues and St. Louis Cardinals have also teamed up to host the One Nation Classic on Jan. 8, which will feature a skills competition by Blues players, a celebrity pick-up hockey game and opportunities for fans to skate on the Winter Classic ice.
Learn more about the events surrounding the Winter Classic by visiting stlouisblues.com/winterclassic
NHL Winter Classic: By the Numbers
36.5 - the average temperature (Fahrenheit) of NHL outdoor games since 2003
200 - number of workers who will spend one week building the rink at Busch Stadium
350 - gallons of water-soluble paint to make the ice white / paint lines and logos
3,000 - gallons of coolant needed to freeze the rink
20,000 - gallons of water needed to create the ice surface
25,000 - feet of electrical cable to power the rink, stages, audio system
52,000 - feet of plywood needed for the construction of the rink
Video: Stillman, DeWitt excited for Winter Classic