HERSHEY, PA – The Zamboni floods the ice at Hersheypark Stadium Wednesday night (Kyle Mace – Sweetest Hockey on Earth)

After months of planning and over a week of physical construction, the Hersheypark Stadium rink is nearly ready for the Outdoor Classic. Before the Bears and Penguins take the ice, other teams will skate on the new surface to help “break it in” for the big game on Sunday.

“The ice is in pretty good shape,” says Project Manager Jim Hartnett. “The sleet and the rain last night caused us some problems. There is a pile of ice that we scraped up. Right now we are playing with the ice temperatures. I like to keep it as cold as we can, to make it harder and faster. You can get to the point where it is too cold and it starts to get brittle.”

If you are going to either the Alumni game on Saturday or the actual Outdoor Classic on Sunday, you will likely be “wowed” by the scene inside the stadium. The end zones have temporary bleachers that will increase the capacity to 17,000. Giant video boards will be going up in both end zones on Friday. Hershey officials have hinted that there will be some special surprises on Sunday.

For now, ice preparation is key and the Zamboni is a key element in getting the Outdoor Classic ice ready. “I’m grooming more than we would inside,” said Hartnett. “But we are using the same basic principles.”

Ironically Wednesday is the 112 birthday of Frank Zamboni. Google has provided one of their doodles for this day.

“His son, Richard, is a good friend of mine. The third generation, Frank is now running the business. They are probably the most well respected family in the business. They are good good people.”

The Outdoor Classic takes place on Sunday January 20 at Hersheypark Stadium at 5pm, as the Bears take on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. On Saturday, former players from both teams square off in an Alumni game at 3pm. The games are not sold out yet and tickets are still available