By Ren Clayton

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Work is officially underway to build an ice rink at Target Field. The Minnesota Wild will play the St. Louis Blues in the Winter Classic there on New Year’s Day.

“[I’m] used to seeing the twinkies play here. But I think it’ll be a perfect venue for an outdoor hockey game,” said Minnesota native and Wild center Nick Bjugstad.

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He will have to switch from being a baseball fan to a hockey player on Jan. 1 at Target Field.

“I don’t know if we’re coming out from the bullpen or where we’re coming out, but yeah it’ll be cool coming out for the first twirl and it’ll be a fun game,” Bjugstad said.

But before that, a lot of work has to happen. The world’s largest mobile rink refrigeration unit arrived Thursday. It’s a key piece in making this all work.

“Everything that you would find within an NHL facility is crammed and packed into a 53-foot trailer,” said Mike Craig, the NHL’s senior manager of Facilities and Hockey Operations.

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In these first few days, the crew is laying the groundwork for the rink. Then this Monday, the boards go up and ice-making starts. 20,000 gallons of water go into a two-inch sheet of NHL ice. They even have built-in heaters, just in case.

“Ideal temperature for the ice when we’re outside here is about 22-24 degrees, so we monitor that and if we need to adjust and actually add a little bit of heat to the system,” Craig said.

At Winter Classics in years past, the majority of the setup has had to be done overnight. But because of the shade here at Target Field, the workers can prepare for the big game during the day.

“Just love being in the middle of the big stadiums like this knowing that we’re able to bring everyone together and play hockey outside is still very special,” said Craig.

The rink will be complete by Dec. 30. The teams will practice on it for the first time on New Year’s Eve.

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Ren Clayton