Winter Classic cleanup begins at Heinz Field


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The revelry of the National Hockey League's Winter Classic gone, Heinz Field was a forlorn scene. Empty cups and nacho cheese littered the stands. Tufts of cotton "snow" shook in the wind. Water puddled around the rink: still standing, but not for long.

Sunday, it was time for the sheet of ice that took six days, 3,000 gallons of coolant and 20,000 gallons of water to build to come down. After the party, somebody has to clean up.

The job fell on Dan Craig, National Hockey League facilities operations director, and a team of workers. Even as corporate sponsor-invited skaters took their last spins on the ice, people were dismantling glass barriers around them.

"They deconstruct the rink basically in reverse of how they constructed it," said NHL spokesman Jamey Horan. From start to finish, the process will take about 48 hours and 40 people.

Relax, Steelers fans. They won't just melt the ice and flood the field. Their methods sound slightly more sophisticated than that.

"They manually use these metal pipes called 'pounders' that chop up the ice," Mr. Horan said, comparing the process to breaking ice off a driveway.

"They shovel the ice into trucks, and then the ice is dumped accordingly on the outskirts of town," he said.

Of course, there's a little more to it. Workers will pump back into trucks the chemical coolant that kept the ice frozen, then deconstruct the piping beneath the ice. They will also take apart the 15-inch high stage that corrected for the field's crown and dismantle the decor: banners, advertisements, the sheets of cotton "snow."

Before the ice was hauled away, a lucky few skaters got one last chance to glide, twirl and trip over the same surface Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had graced.

Capitals, Penguins and Steelers staff and their corporate sponsors were invited to skate on the rink in 45-minute shifts.

"I'm glad we have better conditions than the Pens had," said Kristin Galiano, 22, of Peters, who was invited through her father, who coordinates McDonald's advertising for the Penguins.

Donna Latsko, of Cranberry, took her 6-year-old son and her 11- and 14-year-old daughters.

"They are extremely excited," said Ms. Latsko, who was invited through Verizon Wireless, a corporate sponsor.

"I thought it was a good opportunity to come out and be on the same ice as the pros," said Michael McLean, 41, of Scott, who played hockey in high school and was invited through Consol Energy, also a sponsor.

Mr. McLean, who attended the Winter Classic game Saturday, said it was disappointing, but still thrilling.

"It was definitely a historic spectacle," he said.


Vivian Nereim: vnereim@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1413.


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