"We had close to 7,500 people experience Spectator Plaza on gameday last year in Chicago and my goal this year is to get 10,000 or more to stop by." -- Nick Gennarelli, a manager in the NHL's Events and Entertainment dept.
While dozens of workers are busy turning the inside of Fenway Park into the Winter Wonderland you will see on New Year's Day, several more are working hard outside of the stadium, transforming the Brookline Avenue Parking Lot into a party room.
Spectator Plaza will be a place for fans to congregate and celebrate the Winter Classic outside of Fenway Park both on Thursday and Friday. It will provide an interactive experience for fans of all ages who want to enjoy a slice of history even if they don't have a ticket to the big show, the Bridgestone 2010 NHL Winter Classic.
"We had close to 7,500 people experience Spectator Plaza on gameday last year in Chicago and my goal this year is to get 10,000 or more to stop by," said Nick Gennarelli, a manager in the NHL's Events and Entertainment department. "We did more marketing this year. We inserted an information card in the package for every ticket holder. The awareness has grown and so has sponsorship activation."
Spectator Plaza opens Thursday at 11 a.m. For five hours, fans who don't have a ticket to the game the next day can come by for free to experience the Winter Classic.
The NHL Network's live pregame show will be aired on the giant video board inside Spectator Plaza and 98.5FM The Sports Hub will be broadcasting live. For the first time in Winter Classic history, Gennarelli said there will be players appearing at Spectator Plaza as well as some Bruins alumni.
NHL ice guru Dan Craig and Bruins coach Claude Julien
are also expected to appear.
"We're very excited for the players to see what the NHL is doing for them to grow the game," Gennarelli said. "They don't always see everything outside because they show up to the arena early, but now they will get that chance."
The Sports Hub has also been advertising a ticket giveaway contest for Thursday. Fans are encouraged to show up at Spectator Plaza with their own Winter Classic signs from 11-2. The owner of the sign voted to be the best will be awarded two tickets to the game.
There are only two pre-requisites: The signs must include a Winter Classic logo and a 98.5FM logo. The rest, as Gennarelli said, is up to the imagination of the artist.
"The purpose of that day (Thursday) is to give the people who don't have a ticket to the game a chance to enjoy the experience of the Winter Classic," Gennarelli said. "Tickets are a lot of money, so come down for the experience, take pictures, listen to the music, enjoy the games and the giveaways on Thursday."
Spectator Plaza is set to open at 9 a.m. on Friday and remain open until game-time at 1. The NHL is advertising live music featuring The Zoo, one of Boston's favorite cover bands, as well as giveaways, roaming entertainment, food and beverages.
"We have 40,000 people coming to the ballpark and they can choose to stop at Spectator Plaza or not, but we're right off of Gate A, a main entrance, so we think we'll get a lot of foot traffic," Gennarelli said.
The size of Spectator Plaza is virtually the same as it was in Buffalo for the inaugural Winter Classic, but Gennarelli said they have three times as many sponsors even as the game last season at Wrigley Field.
"Our goal with Spectator Plaza is to increase sponsorship activation and we have that this year," Gennarelli said. "We have tripled our sponsors from last year. It helps that our space is three times bigger, too, but we always welcome more space."
Gennarelli said planning for Spectator Plaza begins over the summer, but it ramps up after Labor Day.
"Planning starts with concepts and what we'd like to have and where we might be, what band plays, etc.," Gennarelli said. "I then switch hats and put on a fan hat so I can look at it and see what fans would want to see. When I get that down on paper, I go to the bosses for their approval."
Once the game begins inside Fenway Park on Friday, workers will again be busy outside at Spectator Plaza, tearing it down to make it a parking lot again. The goal is to have it erased by noon on Saturday so the parking lot can be used for the Bruins' alumni game.
"This is going to be a unique, interactive hockey-themed festival," Gennarelli said with enthusiasm. "Spectator Plaza will allow the every day hockey fan a chance to be a part of the Winter Classic. That's why we are here. That's why we do this."
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