For the first time in quite a while, the Memorial Coliseum arena will mostly be quiet over the next 10 days. That's a good thing because the staff has a lot to get done before the NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament Regional moves in Friday.
After months of planning, coliseum staff started preparing the arena immediately after Sunday's Mad Ants game was completed. The floorboards were removed, the hockey boards put back up and then two Zamboni machines started shaving down the ice to a 1/2 -inch level. The Komets' advertising was removed, the remaining ice was painted white and new NCAA logos were placed. Then hoses were used to start building new ice.
While General Manager Randy Brown and his staff hosted a conference call with NCAA officials Monday afternoon to discuss hotels and travel plans for the teams, the Zambonis returned to work on specific spots and add the final few layers. The Komets and recreational hockey leagues will break in the ice this week before Friday's tournament practices start at 11:30 a.m.
“We want to have the Komets and some other uses skating on it so it is well broken in by the time we get to our practice sessions on Friday,” Brown said. “The worst thing you can do is have green ice, new ice. We don't want to have that.”
Maybe the hardest part was all the Komets' advertising signs have to be removed and the dasher boards have to be covered because the NCAA does not permit advertising. That meant all the lighted advertising around the building and even the ads on the scoreboards have to be covered.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” Brown said. “We've been printing NCAA signs and now we have to put them up in place. On the scoreboard, everything gets covered. NCAA is giving us electronic signage for the scoreboard.”
ESPN has already been to Fort Wayne for a sight review, but the coliseum workers are double-checking all the equipment early this week to make sure everything is working properly, including Internet access and telephone lines.
Brown said this will likely be the largest media area the coliseum has ever set up for an event.
“We want to make sure we are setting the stage,” Brown said. “We want to have the best reputation possible as we work through this. We want to make sure we have the welcome mat out so if there is talk about having a rotation with this event in the future, we would sure like to be in a two- or three-city rotation so every second or third year we know it's coming back to Fort Wayne.”