AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Workers were busy shoveling snow from stairs and seats at Falcon Stadium on Monday, remnants of a recent storm that dropped several inches.
Another storm watch was in effect for Monday, but clear skies and temperatures in the mid-30s Fahrenheit are projected for Saturday when the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings play in the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS2, NHL.TV).
"We got dumped on pretty good, but we really haven't missed a beat (in preparations)," said Steve Mayer, Executive Vice-President and Chief Content Officer, NHL Events and Entertainment. "Hopefully the weather, which now seems like it's going to be nice and clear, cooperates and everything goes off as scheduled."
Flooring was placed on top of the stadium field, where Air Force football and lacrosse teams play, and the rink is in place. The dasher boards are up and the ice will be painted white before lines, circles and logos are added.
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The Avalanche and Kings are scheduled to practice here Friday.
"We're ready to go and we've got some cool things planned," said Mayer, who said the NHL initiated the idea in Nov. 2016 of playing an outdoor game at the U.S. Air Force Academy; the Detroit Red Wings won 4-3 against the Avalanche before 50,095 fans nine months earlier at Coors Field in Denver.
Colorado (32-16-6) has won four in a row and is second in the Central Division, three points behind the St. Louis Blues.
"It doesn't hurt that the Avs are one of the best teams in the NHL, and we love this area," Mayer said. "This area can't get enough hockey. Youth hockey is at its highest level in Colorado; the game is really thriving here. This was of huge interest of the League to come back to Colorado. It's not that often that we come back so quickly after we've had a game here, but this made sense."
This will be the second Stadium Series game played at a military facility; the Toronto Maple Leafs won 5-2 against the Washington Capitals in 2018 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.
"There are certain elements that are unique about being on the campus of a military school, (but) nothing we couldn't and can't overcome," Mayer said. "If anything, the security is incredible, plus [having] a beautiful, picturesque stadium."
Country music star Sam Hunt will be the headliner. His stage is being built on the field next to an F-16 fighter jet, which was wheeled under a tunnel and down a ramp adjacent to the locker rooms. Mayer said the plane cleared the tunnel by one inch.
"We were praying that our measurements were accurate, and we just made it," he said. "Hopefully it stays clear of flying pucks."
The area surrounding the rink will include super-sized logos of the Avalanche and Kings, and seating for 1,000 cadets near the stage.
"We never, ever had anyone on the field," Mayer said. "We're doing a few things that we've never done before. We really take a lot of pride in the production. One of our interests is to bring fans of the musical artist to come and watch hockey games. Sam Hunt right now is one of the hottest, if not the highest active [artist] in country music. We're really looking forward to his performance. We think he fits here in Colorado, we think he fits well for the NHL and we hope that some of his followers come to watch a hockey game. Our hope is that whether it's celebrity or music, you bring some of those people over and they fall in love with our game.
"There will be multiple flyovers and they're also going to come at a slightly unique time. We're also going to have other things coming from the sky that make the elements of game presentation really super unique.
"We go from place to place and it's not the same thing over and over again. We have the ability every single time to make the look, the feel, the entertainment unique. That's the fun part of what we do, trying to make every one of these feel a little different. It makes the job fun."