Ice installation begins at Fiserv Forum ahead of Blackhawks, Wild preseason matchup

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The wait is almost over for Milwaukee hockey fans. We're just under two weeks away from the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild facing off at Fiserv Forum for a preseason game, the first NHL game to be played in Milwaukee in nearly three decades.

While Milwaukee has a regular professional hockey presence with the Admirals, the sport's top league has not hosted a game in the Cream City since the Blackhawks faced off against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 1, 1992.

"It's incredibly exciting," said Claire Koenig with VISIT Milwaukee. "To have something totally, not totally new, but something we haven't seen in three decades, it's going to be incredible and we think it will be a good tourism draw. It will also be something that gets locals really excited."

Koenig says Chicago sports fans have traveled historically well, and with the opponents being a short flight or a six-hour drive away, the weekend is promising for the city's tourism industry.

"Chicago is always in our top three feeder markets for tourism, but we know Cubs fans travel well, Bulls fans travel well and when I say that, I mean they come up and make a trip out of it," Koenig said. "They come up, spend a ton of money and go home. We love Cubs series with the Brewers and we think this is going to be just as great."

Ice installation began Monday at Fiserv Forum with technicians from the Blackhawks on hand. This will be the first professional hockey game played inside Fiserv Forum, which has hosted a string of college games.

"We see this as a real opportunity to showcase the city, the building, and really showcase our abilities to be able to host events like this," said Dennis Williams, senior vice president and general manager of Fiserv Forum. "We built the building with ice capabilities and we hope to have opportunities like this in the future."

Williams even confirmed the possibility of hosting the NCAA's Frozen Four, saying he hopes a bid will be placed in the future.

The details of transforming a venue known for basketball and concerts into an NHL venue are intricate, but manageable.

"We have to set a certain standard compared to other rinks. They (NHL) want the ice harder, they want it denser than a local community rink," said Nick Cotsilis, a senior ice technician with the Chicago Blackhawks who has been building and painting ice for 26 years. "I get excited about it because it's a new challenge, and to paint here at a brand new arena like this, to have the first sheet, that's awesome."

Over the next 48 hours, crews will put the finishing touches on the ice. Then, the ice will be covered so the Bucks can host a game on Saturday, Oct. 1. Following that game, the arena will be transformed once again into a hockey rink.

"We'll have crews really working all day Saturday for the Bucks game, overnight into Sunday," said Williams. "Our goal is probably Monday or Tuesday to start melting the ice, taking it out and then getting ready for a Bucks season."

The puck will drop at 6:30 on Sunday, Oct. 2.

The game is listed as 'Sold Out' on the official Blackhawks website. Resale tickets are available online HERE.

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