Weekly Feature

2017-12-27 / Local News

New Era Field gears up for World Juniors game

by CHRIS GRAHAM Orchard Park Editor

During the last two weeks, New Era Field has begun its steady transformation from a football field to an ice rink for the highly anticipated International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-20 Championship matchup between the U.S. and Canada on Friday, Dec. 29.

The 10-nation tournament will include junior hockey teams from around the world playing games at HarborCenter, Key Bank Center and New Era Field. The tournament began on Dec. 26 and will run through Friday, Jan. 5. The game at New Era Field will start at 3 p.m.

The World Juniors game will mark the second outdoor hockey game at New Era Field, with the first coming 10 years ago when the Buffalo Sabres held the inaugural Winter Classic.

Michael Gilbert, senior vice president of the Buffalo Sabres and chairman of the World Junior Championship, said having the past experience of setting up New Era Field for an outdoor game has helped the workers prepare the venue for play.

“Ice Rink Events [a designer of rink venues] built the rink at the Winter Classic and two or three lead people were here 10 years ago building that rink,” Gilbert said. “When we did some site service back in the summer they remembered, ‘Oh we have this over here and that over there’ so I think it helped a little bit. They knew what they were doing.”

According to Gilbert, construction of the rink began Dec. 17 after the Buffalo Bills completed their final home game of the season. The sub base, which goes below the rink, was put in Sunday night, and 30 miles of tubing that will carry coolant to keep the ice cold was worked on Tuesday.

During Wednesday’s media scrum, workers began to install the boards. Work on the boards was expected to be completed Wednesday before water is sprayed and ice is built. The rink is expected to be finished by the end of the weekend.

Stan Makowski, the vice president of arena operations for the Buffalo Sabres, said the rink is designed to be temporary.

Makowski added that the crew of workers is prepared to deal with any weather challenges constructing the rink, whether it be colder weather and snow or radiant sunshine.

Gilbert said the two end zones will be tarped off to provide a more intimate feel. As of press time, a little more than 30,000 tickets had been sold. The venue will seat 47,000. Tickets can be acquired at www.buffaloworldjuniors.com, and the ticket offices of the Bills and Sabres.

“We anticipate those sales continuing,” Gilbert said.

Skating sessions will be available on the New Era Field rink for the public leading up to the game.

According to a statement from Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the sessions will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27, and from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28.

The cost to participate will be $100 and will include a 300-level ticket to the game.

Skaters will enter at One Bills Drive, the main driveway off Abbott Road, and park in Lot 2. Attendees will proceed through Gate 1 and go to section 122/123 for field and ice access.

There will be a warming station in the east end zone tunnel to tie up skates and purchase concessions at the Miller Lite Brew Pub.

All participants are asked to bring their own skates. Helmets are required for anyone younger than 12. Everyone entering the stadium must hold a ticket to the skating event.

For those who remember the Winter Classic fondly, sans the Sabres loss, Gilbert feels the World Juniors game can have the same impact on hockey fans.

For more information on the tournament, visit www.buffaloworldjuniors.com.

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