DALLAS -- The transformation of the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium into the stage for the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic began on Tuesday with the arrival of the NHL Ice Plant Truck.
The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators will play the first outdoor NHL game in Texas on Jan. 1 (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS).
"Today is Day One on the build," Derek King, senior manager of facilities operations/hockey operations for the NHL said. "The crew is starting to put down the armor deck. We'll get the field covered today.
"Tuesday to Friday will be the entire rink build. We've got the ice plant truck parked and the generators parked today. The crew is working on a lot of the stuff up at the truck and making our connections to run the pipes down. On Friday, we are looking to do dashers. On Saturday, we will start to get everything circulating on the floor. On Saturday evening, we will start making the ice surface."
Marty Turco, former Stars goalie and president of the Dallas Stars Foundation, and Brenden Morrow, former Stars captain and Director of Business and Hockey Development, were on hand for the beginning of the transformation.
"This is a big day for us," Turco said. "It's been a great year for our organization. To get this game and watch that truck roll up here today, it's pretty cool for our group. We're not shocked about the ticket sales or anything. Our fans are the best and they're going to get rewarded with a great game in this building."
"Back in the early '90's, people didn't expect hockey to be in Dallas, nevertheless to have an outdoor game here," Morrow said. "It's pretty unexpected. We've come a long way and it's a big treat and a big thrill for the Dallas Stars to be able to host it."
The Ice Plant is a 53-foot, 300-ton capacity refrigeration unit that removes heat from the surface of the ice and stabilizes the temperature around 22 degrees Fahrenheit. It also pumps as much as 3,000 gallons of glycol coolant into custom-made aluminum trays that are configured on the field of the stadium.
King expects the surface to be completed by Dec. 29 or 30. Making the ice will take place at night.
One of the key concerns for King and the crew when creating an outdoor rink is the weather.
"The weather is a challenge for all of these outdoor games, so we'll monitor that closely," King said. "We've got a monitoring system that we'll put in the ice and a weather station on the field. If it's going to be bright and sunny during the day, we'll cover the sheet.
"The making of the ice will be done overnight. It will be a lot of long nights for the crew that will be doing that."
It was sunny and around 50 degrees on Tuesday. The 10-day forecast shows temperatures reaching as high as 67 degrees, but the temperature on Jan. 1 is projected to be around 45 degrees.
Regardless of the weather over the next 15 days, King and his crew will be prepared to preserve the ice surface.
"We have a lot of technology for how we can run the truck and how we can monitor it," King said. "I try not to look at the weather forecast too much. I've got a great crew of guys and some of them have done 21 games now, so they're very familiar with what we do."