Take a famous baseball field, throw in some innovative marketers, change the sport and there you have it, the 2009 NHL Winter Classic.
(front page Chicago Tribune Jan 1 2009)
Taking a cue from the Canadian Heritage Classic, the Winter Classic is a new tradition in the NHL (Ice Hockey to you and me, Hockey to North Americans), in which two teams are pitted against each other in a traditional and somewhat perilous out door arena, evoking the heritage and history of the fine sport of Ice Hockey.
This year the game is to be held at the distinctly single use stadium (in the Rob Hamlin sense of the word), the historical and distinguished home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field. In a little over 2 weeks, Wrigley Field was transformed into a competitive Ice Hockey arena, from that of a baseball field.
Why am I on about this, simply because people say that the new Carisbrook stadium won’t be used for anything other than 6-12 games of rugby a year, and that’s all. While others of us with a modicum of interest in seeing this thing succeed have suggested that the worlds your oyster when it comes to what we could host at this new fine stadium of ours. It has been suggested in the past that we could hold big Ice Hockey matches there (exhibition or International). People who have poo pooed this suggestion, make the point that there is a very good Ice Stadium in Dunedin. Indeed there is, the quality of the ice is almost unsurpassed in NZ, while the boards (and the glass you look through) is Olympic quality. Only problem, there’s seating for, I don’t know, 150 people (tongue in cheek). I’ve previously suggested that this stadium will succeed only on the innovative marketing and stadium management needed in the modern entertainment world, and I still firmly believe this today.
So just as Chicago is home to the perfectly good 22,000 capacity United Centre (ok massive understatement), home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks (designed by our very own HOK sport in 1992), yet they decide to play an exhibition game in the freezing cold (last time I looked it was minus 12C in the midday sun), why for marketing and innovation, and the NHL record crowd for a regular season game – 71,000 last Jan 1.
Don’t believe me that this is big in Chicago, go over the the Tribune’s web site, it’s on the front page, and they are making a big deal of it, rolling out past legends from Chicago etc. This is a nice graphic of how to turn a single use stadium into a ‘field of dreams’ for a big show, and of course a graphic showing how to keep ice cold on a grass surface.
Again why is this interesting? Simply because the ‘mini winter Olymics’ to be held in Otago over the next few years will of course. The $5m dollar even will attract 700 competitors from 30 countries, and of course the events will be held all over Otago, at the best venues. Simply put 1+1 together and if anyone with a half innovative marketing brain could tell you, if they can do it on grass in Chicago, then we can do it on grass in NZ.
This is possibly just one of dozens of reasons why the stadium must be built and the very best marketing and stadium management team be assembled. Like the O2 arena in London and Rogers Centre in Toronto, the success or failure of such venues comes down more or less to management and marketing, of which the rest of the world doesn’t hold a monopoly on.
Only shame is Sky in it’s infinite wisdom doesn’t deem Ice Hockey a big enough sport to play on TV here in NZ. I’ll have to rely on podcasts and all manner of web tools to catch the game early morning 2nd Jan (for us in NZ).
why not, just because we can and there might be other Hockey fans out there, here are the highlights from that game.