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Stadium Series site 'very unique,' ready for ice

by Eric Gilmore /

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- An NHL-caliber rink continued to take shape Friday afternoon at Levi's Stadium, which will host the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2).

The platform for the rink has been built, the boards are going up, and the aluminum pans are in place, ready to be filled with glycol coolant from the NHL's giant refrigeration unit outside the stadium.

By Saturday afternoon, Dan Craig, NHL senior director of hockey operations, expects to start making ice.

Architectural rendering of 2015 NHL Stadium Series at Levi's Stadium. (Courtesy: Populous)

Architectural rendering of 2015 NHL Stadium
Series at Levi's Stadium.
(Click to enlarge)
Courtesy: Populous

"The boards will be finished by the end of the day," Craig said. "Glass goes up tomorrow, and we fill the system overnight until tomorrow morning. The refrigeration plant is ready to go as soon as we're full, and we'll be spraying water tomorrow night probably somewhere between 4 and 6 p.m."

Craig answered questions on another sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70s. The forecast for game day calls for a high of 70 and a low of 47 with no chance of rain. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. local time.

Craig said he can handle the high temperatures.

"[The ice] will hold up," he said. "No doubt about that. It will hold up. We did it in Dodger Stadium last year. Same time, same temperature; in fact, it was warmer in L.A. last year than it is here today."

The 2014 NHL Stadium Series game between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks was in the 80s.

Craig said the forecast for dry weather is a relief, but he's ready to adjust if it rains.

"You prepare because weather changes," Craig said. "It doesn't matter where you are in the country, it can change in 24 hours and pop out of nowhere."

The rest of the field, where the San Francisco 49ers usually play, looked like a construction zone for a Hollywood movie set. There were wooden structures throughout, ready to be transformed to represent the Sierra Nevada.

"We're building something very unique here," said Don Renzulli, NHL executive vice president of events. "It's really a take on Northern California from the Pacific to the Sierra. You're going to see water, you're going to see rock formations, you're going to see plants, a lot of different things on the field.

"So we're really trying to create that whole atmosphere down on the field so you get a feel for Northern California, but also you don't lose the rink in the massive size of the field."

Renzulli said they'll use pools of water to represent the Pacific Ocean.

"It's not just going to be color. But we'll also have a lot of visual graphics that tie into the field walls as they go down on the field too," he said. "You'll see a lot of different colors and different aspects on the field, but really it will go from the field wall right to the rink. The back of the rink gets decorated. So a lot of color [is] still to come into the field."

When the Kings and Ducks were introduced at Dodger Stadium, they entered from center field and walked through palm trees. Renzulli said there's something special planned for when the Sharks and Ducks are introduced.

"They're actually going to walk out on basically the 50-yard line to center ice," Renzulli said. "But we've got some special things we're creating that I don't want to give away quite yet."

This is Renzulli's 13th outdoor game with the NHL. He's worked all but the 2003 game in Edmonton.

"All these markets have their own issues, I guess," Renzulli said. "Whether it's football or baseball, you work with 'em, you figure it out. We've learned a lot over the years of building the rink and understanding the hot-cold. If we did this in 2008, we probably wouldn't understand how we keep that ice the way we need it. Now we know with the reflective blankets and things. So each year we learn something. Football stadiums, baseball stadiums, they're a little bit unique in their own way.

"You can't complain about this stadium. It's got all the bells and whistles. It's got great sight lines just about anywhere you sit."

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