The NHL Ice Truck arrived at Soldier Field on a 40-degree Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Chicago was hit with nearly seven inches of snow.
That quick change in weather patterns was just a small taste of what's to come as hundreds of people spend the next 10 days constructing yet another outdoor ice rink for the upcoming Blackhawks-Penguins Stadium Series game on March 1. And as we look ahead to the weather forecast, crews will be dealing with plenty of Chicago's typical, unpredictable weather up until the puck drops.
As the Windy City awaits more snow, rain and days that will see 20-degree temperature variations from the day prior, the crew prepares for the upcoming challenges ahead. NHL senior director of facility operations Dan Craig was on site to talk about all that goes in to making this game possible and said weather changes won't put any sort of hold on the work they're beginning.
[PHOTO GALLERY: The NHL Ice Truck arrives at Soldier Field]
"I think a lot of our guys are very much aware of what we're going to be up against," Craig said. "We're watching the weather 10 to 14 days out now, and as you can see today we're at almost 40 degrees and in three or four days we're going to be back into the mid-20s again. So, you wake up in the morning, and whatever Mother Nature gives you, you deal with it."
They'll in fact have a bit to deal with as they're scheduled to begin building their stage on Thursday morning — the same day Chicago's expected to see thunderstorms a majority of the day. But after building a rink at Dodger Stadium last month, the crews have seen it all, and Craig reiterated a little rain won't be delaying any work.
"Hopefully the guys have ponchos," he said, adding that Chicago won't provide any unique challenges he hasn't seen in other cold-weather cities. "That's the way we work, you can't sit down and wait for it to happen because this game is going to happen and we have to be ready."
With construction set to begin, here's a look at the numbers behind the building of an outdoor rink:
— The NHL Ice Truck holds 300 tons of refrigeration, basically the same as what's used inside the United Center.
— Two compressors are inside the truck — one weighing 165 tons, the other 135 tons.
— Aluminum pans that are 30 feet long and 30 inches wide sit beneath the ice and house the pipes that keep the rink at the correct temperature.
— What is the correct temperature? 22 degrees.
— There are 12 crew members that will construct the actual rink. But hundreds of employees are needed just to make the event possible.
— Feb. 20: The day the crew will begin laying the pans and piping.
— Feb 21: The day the crew will connect the lines and fire up the truck.
— Night of Feb 21: The crew will begin spraying the water down. It will take about 24 hours to complete.
And after all that takes place, the ice will be just about ready to go for the Stadium Series game; a game Craig says will be a "bigger show than we did last time at Wrigley" during the 2009 Winter Classic.