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How Soldier Field Became an Outdoor Hockey Rink

Here’s what it took to ice the gridiron for Saturday’s Blackhawks game, Soldier Field’s first-ever NHL matchup.

Photos: (field) Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune; (Keith) Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune

On March 1 at 7 p.m., the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Soldier Field’s first-ever National Hockey League game.

“Our fans and our teams love outdoor games,” says the NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, who has planned similar events at Yankee Stadium, Heinz Field, and even Wrigley Field.

The NHL sold out tickets for the game—a far tougher task came in building the rink.

Ice rink diagram

The layers:

A. 350 gallons of paint to whiten the ice and draw the goal lines

B. 20,000 gallons of water to create two-inch-thick ice—three-quarters of an inch thicker than in an indoor rink (in case of erosion from Chicago weather)

C. 3,000 gallons of glycol coolant pumping through 243 aluminum trays to keep the ice at a steady 22 degrees

D. 570 plywood planks for the rink’s base

the Dollars: $1 million-plus to build the rink and refrigeration unit. To help defray the cost, the Chicago Park District will rent out the rink from March 2 to 4 for a cool $12,000 an hour and split the revenue with the NHL.

the Workers: 160, including carpenters, pipefitters, and electricians, toiling for two weeks

Duncan Keith

“[Playing] a hockey game where the Bears play, in a stadium this big and this nice, is going to be a great feeling.” —Duncan Keith, defenseman



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