New Year’s Day marks the return of one of the great spectacles in sports, the NHL’s Winter Classic.
This year’s incarnation takes place in Washington D.C. at Nationals Park, the home of MLB’s Washington Nationals.
In all, it took 15 days to transform the baseball park into a hockey stadium. Below is a look at how it happened (click any image for a larger view).
17 days until the puck drops
Two weeks prior to the Winter Classic, Nationals Park still looked like a baseball stadium.
13 days until the puck drops
However, it only took four days and you could already see the basics of what would become the hockey rink.
The Washington Post recently spoke with the NHL’s “ice guru,” Dan Craig, about what goes into building an outdoor ice rink that meets the specifications required for an NHL game.
The tan pieces laying on the ground in a grid pattern are large, plastic flooring tiles that are designed to protect the grass for the baseball field.
The ice rink itself is actually perched up on an elevated “table” or floor that is supported by steel legs. This is important because the baseball field is not perfectly level, built at a slight angle to help with drainage.
The rectangles seen here on the rink floor are actually 243 custom-made aluminium trays, also called ice trays. These trays are connected together by thousands of feet of hoses.
Those trays are then connected to the “Ice Plant,” an 18-wheeler parked outside the stadium that houses the 300-ton capacity refrigeration unit.
10 days until the puck drops
Three days later, the boards are up, and most of the glass has been installed around the rink. But the playing surface, a 1.75 inches thick layer of ice, still has not been added.
A timelapse GIF shows the first seven days of the transformations.
5 days until the puck drops
With less than a week to go, the ice is on. So it was time to start painting.
And now it looks like a hockey rink!
The players will enter the rink from this strip of ice in center field. This area will be used by youth hockey players during the Winter Classic.
2 days until the puck drops
Finally, 15 days after the process began, Nationals Park was completely transformed into a hockey stadium.
A timelapse GIF of the second week of transformation.
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