Nationals Park getting a Winter Classic makeover

WASHINGTON — Capitals fans are counting down the days — not to Christmas, but to New Year’s Day, when the Caps face off against the Chicago Blackhawks atop the diamond in Nationals Park.

While 30-degree temperatures and overcast skies may not sound perfect to most, that’s exactly what National Hockey League organizers are hoping for when the puck drops at the Winter Classic.

“People don’t realize sun is a factor with the logos in the ice. The sun is just as bad as rain at some point,” says Don Renzulli, the vice president of events for the NHL.

Although the league has put on 12 outdoor events since 2008, the weather always presents challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining the ice.

“If we get sunny days, we’ll cover it. We’ve got thermal blankets we’ll put over the ice and as soon as we get shadows over the ice we’ll get back to work,” he says.

Workers get Nationals Park ready for the Winter Classic. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Workers get Nationals Park ready for the Winter Classic. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

As crews lay ice pans between first and third base, it’s clear they’re planning to make the field over. Renzulli says it will be entirely covered in snow whether it’s snowing or not. Fans can expect a large video screen for better visibility of play, and the New Year’s Day event will also have a large military presence.

“There’s plenty of room to do things that we haven’t done before,” Renzulli says.

The NHL plans to announce the entertainment at the Winter Classic in the next few days.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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