DENVER - It's a face-off between the sun and ice at Coors Field.
The baseball stadium is set to host its first ever college and professional hockey games this weekend and the next as part of the National Hockey League’s Stadium Series.
As temperatures continue to rise in the metro -- expected to top 70 degrees this week -- event planners now have to make keep the ice from melting, and they're doing just that with the help of a crew of nearly 200 workers.
“We have a 300 ton refrigeration unit in the parking lot,” said Mike Craig, senior manager of facility operations for the NHL. “It pumps our coolant down to our ice pans and we’re able to keep it cool there. We have a series of 243 ice pans that all work in a series under the ice.”
Craig said he’d be nervous if it weren’t for previous successes with warm temperatures in LA and Santa Clara, California.
“We’ve kind of learned to deal with everything,” Craig said. “The coolant removes the heat from the water, or from the air, and then back to the truck – and it’s just a cycle.”
"Our ideal [temperature] would be 32 degrees, partly cloudy -- a little snow," said Don Renzulli, executive vice president of events for the NHL. “We’ve got a great group of people that have been working on this.”
Renzulli said the league has, in past years, overcome snow in Chicago and Ann Arbor, Michigan, heat in LA and rain in Pittsburgh.
“You're building something where it doesn't really belong,” Renzulli said. “And, I think when it's all said and done, people will be pretty impressed with what this stadium will look like on game day."
Crews will also place an insulated tarp over the ice during the day to reflect the sun. “We’ve dealt with sun, we’ve dealt with snow,” said Craig.
And the staff truly is working around the clock.
“The night crews have been going until about 4 in the morning and then the morning crew has been coming in at about 5,” said Craig. “We’ll be ready.”
In addition to the rink, crews are also building a mini mountain-scape in Centerfield mimicking the Rockies. “Stadium Series” banners started going up outside the stadium this week.
This Saturday, Feb. 20, the DU Pioneers will take on Colorado College in what’s being dubbed the Battle on Blake. Then, on Feb. 27, the Colorado Avalanche will host the Detroit Red Wings in the first ever NHL Stadium Series game in Denver. It will be the 16th Stadium Series game overall, and the third this year.