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2024 NHL Winter Classic: Why Seattle was league’s choice for outdoor game, plus a look at the field design

On Jan. 1, 2024, the two youngest NHL teams — the 2023 Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights and the Seattle Kraken — will battle outside for the Winter Classic. The game will be played at T-Mobile Park, home of the MLB’s Seattle Mariners.
It might seem odd to have the two newest teams compete in an outdoor series, but the backdrop of the Emerald City and their passionate fanbase was too good to pass up.
“The arena comes alive,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer told CBS Sports about the environment at Climate Pledge Arena, home of the Seattle Kraken and Seattle Storm.
“It’s an amazing arena, state of the art, one of the best in the entire league. So, you know, quickly we turned our attention to, we’ve got to come here for an outdoor game.”
Once Seattle was in the fold, NHL executives started to draw up potential opponents, and Las Vegas was suggested.
“We just started talking about how unique it would be, especially given the buzz, and remember this was before Vegas won the Stanley Cup,” Mayer said.
The 2024 Outdoor Classic was announced on Jan. 1, 2023, six months and 12 days before Vegas defeated the Florida Panthers to win its first Stanley Cup. Mayer and his team liked the baked-in storylines of the newest teams doing battle as part of one of the marquee events for the league. Additionally, Seattle is a city that, in theory, can host an outdoor game in the winter.
That’s where T-Mobile Park and the Mariners come into play.
The venue
There are no shortage of beautiful venues in Seattle, including Climate Pledge Arena itself. However, the CPA was out for obvious reasons. Husky Stadium at the University of Washington was another option, but weather concerns kept it from rising to the top of the list. Lumen Field, the home of the Seahawks and OL Reign, was considered, but ultimately its neighbor landed the gig.
Building an outdoor rink for an NHL event is no easy endeavor. The league has experienced hiccups since the event was introduced in 2008.
“Over the course of these games, and we’re on our way to 40 outdoor games, we’ve seen it all,” Mayer said. “I mean, we’ve seen warm temperatures in Los Angeles, and we’ve seen actually, the ice melting away a week before the game in Dallas and we had to rebuild the ice. The sun blaring down in Tahoe, which caused the delay, freezing minus 20 degrees in Minnesota, but we were able to play the game. So we’re always prepared for it.”
The selling factor for Seattle, a city known for its music, its coffee and its rainfall, was the flexibility of the retractable roof.
“What we loved about T-Mobile, and I’m not kidding you, it’s one of the beautiful baseball stadiums that I’ve ever been in,” Mayer said. “But it also has a roof and the uniqueness of it is that we can build our rink with the roof closed, and we may end up doing that.”
The weather report shows there will be rain or showers eight out of the next 10 days, including on Jan. 1. However, the T-Mobile Park roof can rearrange specific panels to fully cover the specific part of the field where the ice rink is being built.
“It is our goal and we are going to stick to it, that when the game is played, the roof is going to be open,” Mayer said. “We may cheat a little because there is the ability to take one of the slabs of the roof and uniquely place it exactly over the rink, which would be interesting and cool. And certainly a storyline.”
The roof is closed this week while the foundational pieces of the rink, the broadcast set, the stage and the mini pod rink are built out.
The field design
Field rendering for the 2024 NHL Winter Classic hosted by the Seattle Kraken at T-Mobile Park. NHL, Hotopp Creative Studio, Elevate Sports Ventures, Populous
When coming up with field designs, the NHL leaned into the nautical vibes of the area, including the myth of the kraken itself. The NHL collaborated with Seattle-based Hotopp Creative Studio to make the stadium come alive for the players, the fans in the stands and viewers at home.
“From the time they walk into the stadium, we want to be doing something there. Everywhere you look, we want to activate,” Mayer said. “We’ve announced Hart as our intermission performers and [during warm-ups] we’re going to come out with Sir-Mix-A-Lot, who’s from Seattle, and we’re gonna have some fun.”
The musical acts will perform on the shipwreck — caused by the water beast the Kraken, of course — located in deep center field. Several auxiliary rinks in the outfield will serve as dedicated ponds for local youth teams to stake on during the event. TNT will broadcast live from a boathouse in center field.
Flyovers, national anthems — including an ASL interpreter and performer — and an ode to Seattle sports will be part of the event. Seattle sports legends such as Marshawn Lynch (NFL), Edgar Martinez (MLB) and Lenny Wilkens (NBA) were also confirmed to appear.
The press release did not make mention of any Seattle Sounders or Seattle Storm legends, despite the franchises being the winningest in Seattle sports history. The Sounders have eight trophies and the Storm have won four WNBA titles and the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup.
Seattle hockey history
Speaking of championships, having Vegas in town has added an extra element to the Winter Classic and the NHL docuseries that will lead into the TNT pregame show on Jan. 1. It’s an easy sell to have the reigning Stanley Cup champions involved in such a production.
However, through two episodes, the series is more about the players and families of Vegas. The four-part series gives diehard and casual fans alike a different glimpse of NHL players. Episode 1 followed the Golden Knights during their annual Father’s Trip.
The “Road to the NHL Winter Classic” welcomed the audience into the locker room, where the team and their dads or father figures received a bittersweet message from forward Keegan Kolesar. The Manitoba native lost his father to COVID-19 in 2020.
Kolesar thanked his teammates and their fathers for including him in the special trip that resulted in a 6-3 victory over St. Louis and a 6-1 win over Dallas.
In the second episode, Kraken fans follow goaltender Joey Daccord and his girlfriend through an outdoor winter market. The couple shops for holiday ornaments, but not before ordering hot chocolates, with marshmallows of course. Daccord also narrates his unique pregame routine including VR technology.
The Kraken went on to beat the 2023 Eastern Conference champions the Florida Panthers 4-0. The win snapped an eight-game losing streak for Seattle and marked Daccord’s first NHL shutout.
Overall, the NHL is hoping the 2024 Winter Classic will make fans of their newest franchises proud, while also welcoming casual fans of sports or even the Pacific Northwest and Seattle to enjoy the fun. To that end, the NHL Outdoor Fan Festival will open after the Seattle Seahawks’ game at Lumen Field on Sunday, Dec. 31.
The free event will include music, food and special activations hosted by NHL partners such as Verizon, Upper Deck and the Washington Lottery. Fans can also enjoy the United By Hockey mobile museum, which in the past has included Kraken radio broadcaster Everett Fizthugh, ROOT Sports Kraken analyst and former NHL forward JT Brown, among other hockey pioneers representing diverse backgrounds.
“It’s lining up to be a really, really great week and a great experience, and and most importantly, a great game,” Mayer said. “We hope we make everybody proud that Seattle got a great show that the rest of the world saw as well.”
The 2024 NHL Winter Classic will take place at T-Mobile Park at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Jan. 1. The final episode of “Road to the NHL Classic” will air at 1 p.m. ET and leads into the TNT broadcast.

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