It's been about a year in the making, but the Ford Ice Center in Antioch is finally open for business. I got a chance to take a tour yesterday, and I can tell you, it's a pretty impressive facility. Here are a few facts from the Preds:
- There are two NHL-size rinks in the building, with matching model 546 Zambonis (I wouldn't be caught dead driving any other model).
- The North rink seats 550 and the South rink seats 300, with overhead heaters above the bleachers. It's exactly as cold as it's supposed to be inside, so those heaters will be a welcome feature to those watching a game. The cold felt pretty great on a hot August day, though.
- The facility will be home to the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy, the Nashville Jr. Predators, the Vanderbilt club team, and the MTSU club team, making their first appearance since 2010.
- There is a pro shop. It's being operated by Perani's Hockey World, their only location in the Southeast. I'm told this is kind of a big deal. The shop wasn't open when I visited, but it looked really cool. I can't wait to check it out.
- The second floor is a really cool feature. Think basically club-level seats, great sight lines, lots of TV's, private party rooms, the whole deal.
- There will be smoked meats available for purchase. There will be draft beer available for purchase. Assuming this stuff isn't for the people exercising.
As you can imagine, an unveiling like this drew a crowd. Here's a quick clip of the international media contingent that showed up to watch me skate:
See that giant gold band around the rink? That's the "Look-Up Line", a feature designed to prevent dangerous hits and head injuries along the boards. Think of it like the warning track in baseball...it's there to alert players they're about to hit the wall. You can read all about it here, but this is such a simple idea that I can't believe it's only about a year old. I'd read a little about this before my visit, and I wondered how distracting it would be as a spectator...it wasn't. You DEFINITELY noticed it while skating though, and that's the whole point. Here's Preds Executive VP Chris Parker:
Would this be effective at the NHL level? I don't know, but setting up younger players to be aware of the more dangerous aspects of the game is a good thing, and will be an interesting experiment to follow.
The Ford Ice Center offers a ton of programs for adults and children at every level. The details can be found here, so feel free to check the schedule. While it's being described as a "soft opening", the rinks are open to the public this weekend. If you've got some free time, I highly recommend checking it out. It's going to be roughly 170 degrees outside, so just ducking in for the frozen temps might be worth the trip. Plus, you can scout out your seats for the rookie tournament next month!