Falcon Stadium design intricate

Befitting the location, Stadium Series game attendees and TV viewers will notice that the Falcon Stadium field is designed to look like an airport runway, complete with working lights and ... maybe air traffic controllers?

“There could and may very well be,” said Steve Mayer, Executive VP and Chief Content Officer for NHL Events and Entertainment.

This layout was the brainchild of a team of five to six “really creative” people. Mayer said once the designers decided on and secured a real Thunderbirds F-16 for the field, they built the field around it.

Everything is meticulously detailed. The team logos on the field are shaped like planes. The H on the stage conveniently stands for “helipad,” which it’s designed to look like, and first intermission performer Sam Hunt. The ‘30’ on the runway represents the NHL’s 30th outdoor game. The colors and how they’ll show up on camera are considered.

The design evolves as inspiration strikes. They may continue to tweak it as Saturday’s game nears.

When Navy hosted a Stadium Series game at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2018, the field became an aircraft carrier, with flooring made to look like the ocean.

“We think this design absolutely rivals that one and in its own way will be completely unique,” Mayer said.

Mayer said late in the process in Annapolis, they ordered stuffed seagulls to occupy spaces on the field. At the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on New Year’s Day 2020, wood fences were added at the last minute. So there may be more to come.

Locals, outdoor game vets set to combine forces

When it comes to keeping the Stadium Series outdoor ice in top shape this weekend, a crew of 24-plus from all over North America will combine forces with a crew from closer to home.

Some of the staff tasked with cleaning and maintaining the ice come from other NHL buildings. They have experience with the equipment and have dealt with the outdoor intangibles 20-plus times.

“It’s a pretty unique environment out there, so having that experience is key for us,” Mike Craig, the NHL’s senior manager of facilities/hockey operations, said.

Kent Hanson, a Zamboni driver at Air Force for nearly 10 years according to his LinkedIn page, will assist the crew at the NHL game in an unspecified role.

In addition, as of Tuesday, six to seven Colorado Avalanche game crew members will be there, including four members of the skating crew — “a mix of guys and girls.” That’s not the whole contingent fans are used to seeing at the Pepsi Center, but the host team’s support staff will be taking part.

That leads to “lots of questions, lots of learning.” And a special experience for more than just the players and fans.

“We always want to make sure that there’s some representation here and that everyone’s included as much as possible,” Craig said.

College game buildup

Face-off at Falcon Stadium wasn’t announced until there was under a month to go for the outdoor game pitting Air Force against Colorado College. As widely speculated, ticket sales were at the heart of the matter.

“We’ve worked with (the NHL). That’s pretty standard,” Air Force athletic director Nathan Pine said Tuesday. “There’s a ticket threshold they want to make sure that they get to on the NHL game before we started moving into the college game. That was fine. We knew it from the beginning.”

In spite of the small time window, Pine said ticket sales for the college game are approaching 7,000, which he considers a success.

“Right now I think we’re playing with house money,” he said. “At the end of the day we’re going to get a great crowd in there, bigger than we’ve ever played in front of, and it will be an experience for our kids that they’ll never forget.”

Air Force athletic director Nathan Pine expects positive impact from NHL, outdoor hockey at Falcon Stadium
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Colorado Springs native Pochipinski playing for the other side this time as Air Force, Colorado College face off
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