There have been have been world-class track meets, countless football games (even an NFL exhibition game) and professional soccer matches held in Memorial Stadium at Bakersfield College.
So why not ice hockey?
That will happen on Jan. 7, when the Condors play host to the Ontario Reign in an American Hockey League game on a sheet of ice positioned in the middle of the field. It will be the only outdoor AHL game this season.
That game, the Condorstown Outdoor Classic, will bring an end to what is billed as the Three-Way Chevrolet Winterfest presented by Mission Bank — 18 days of outdoor-themed events, including plenty of hockey.
Condors President Matthew Riley said the attraction, which opens Dec. 21, will feature a 220-foot zip line (the exact location within the stadium is being determined), an area for snowman building, a kids play area, youth and adult hockey tournaments and a smaller sheet of ice for public skating and more.
“The very first (National Hockey League) outdoor game was held 13 years ago in Edmonton, and we half-jokingly said back then, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to do an outdoor game in Bakersfield?’” Riley said. “Then two and a half years ago, when the Ducks and Kings played at Dodger Stadium, we thought seriously, Why not in Bakersfield?”
The Condors faced Stockton in an outdoor game last December at Raley Field in West Sacramento, and Riley and most of the front office staff were there. By then, work toward a game in Bakersfield was well under way.
“We wanted to do some onsite recon as a road team for both the game itself and the whole surrounding event,” Riley said. “Immediately after that, we went to BC and started talking to them.”
Riley said there were many challenges to navigate at Bakersfield College and said the Condors found support all along the way.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the warm reception we got every step of the way,” Riley said of his talks with various BC representatives. “Nobody looked at me like I was a goofball.”
Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian said the outdoor game was an exciting time for BC, “a historic event here in December, and it happened because of the amazing partners here in Bakersfield.”
Getting BC onboard was just part of a puzzle that Riley said is taking more than $1 million to put together.
“Thanks to Three-Way Chevrolet and Mission Bank for helping out,” Riley said, noting an event of this magnitude takes lots of sponsorship, and he still had room for more.
“We’ve got 19,000 seats here, but we’ve got to bring in video boards, dirt, put up rinks, have concessions and porta-potties,” he said. “There is so much to do to make it a reality.”
And while attractions such as the zip line are nice, the focus will be on the ice, especially come time for the big game on Jan. 7.
In charge of that is Rich Cubin of Rink Specialists, who has installed outdoor rinks at many venues, including last year’s game at Raley Field.
The first task, Cubin said, is bringing in 500-600 tons of sand and creating a good level surface on the crowned field. Once ice is down, he said, it’s just a matter of maintaining it.
Cubin learned a lot about the effects of warm winter California sun, rain and wind last year.
The painted surfaces of the ice (logos and line) absorbed heat and had some melting issues, and rain forced the postponement of the game by a day. The next evening, condensation formed on the glass, obstructing views.
‘Last year, we just got dealt a very bad hand,” Cubin said. “Got rained out on a Friday, and the next day there was a tremendous amount of moisture in the air. We were able to get the ice under control, which was our main concern, but then the condensation got trapped on the glass. We had a losing battle. This year we’re going to precoat the glass with an anti-fogging agent the NHL uses. We shouldn’t have any issues.”
There certainly will not be weather issues if Mayor Harvey Hall’s prediction comes true.
“I’m sure that in Bakersfield, when when it’s going to be 16 degrees and the sun is going to be shining and the air is going to be fresh and the sky is going to be clear, we’re going to have an exciting Winterfest here at Bakersfield College,” Hall said.
For his part, Condors coach Gerry Fleming said he is looking forward to another outdoor adventure.
“After the first one you want to play one every year,”he said. “It was a great experience last year. I’m excited to be a part of this one, and it’s going to be nice to play in front of our fans.”
Tickets, not yet on sale to the general public, will range from $35-65. Full Condors season-ticket holders receive a ticket to the game as part of their membership and will be able to purchase up to eight additional tickets.