DALLAS (Nexstar) — It was a day of firsts to kick off the new year in Dallas.
The Dallas Stars played host to the Nashville Predators in the first National Hockey League game played outdoors in Texas, drawing 85,630 fans to the Cotton Bowl Stadium.
“Everything about this event is special,” remarked Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness.
The game was the first time a Winter Classic took place in a city in the south. The attendance marked the second highest NHL game in history.
“The day is a big day because it’s the Cotton Bowl and 85,000 people are coming to watch a hockey game in Texas,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said.
The atmosphere inside the stadium aimed to marry a combination of the Lone Star State and traditional NHL regalia, in the league’s 29th outdoor game.
“We try to dress up the stadium to reflect a local ambiance,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, referring to the horses, longhorn, and State Fair vibe.
“We tried to blend Texas and hockey,” he added.
“Hockey, I’m delighted to say, is alive and well in Dallas,” he stated.
While the Cotton Bowl is widely known for hosting the Red River Showdown, the annual football game between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners, hockey alum and Dallas Stars Foundation President Marty Turco said he was excited to see a sea of green fill the stadium.
“Just the Cotton Bowl full, but not with Longhorn and Sooner jerseys, but with Dallas Stars Green, victory green,” he said.
Turco said he was glad to see the hockey world “descend upon North Texas and learn a little more of our history, the fact that we had professional hockey before professional football in Texas blows people’s minds.”
For the teams, this experience was more than just the sport. The Dallas Stars Foundation pledged $2 million to build a new multi-use athletic complex at St. Philip’s School and Community Center, a private school 1.5 miles down the road from the Cotton Bowl in South Dallas. The team and the league hosted more than 500 kids from the school and surrounding area at the game.
“(It) sets an example for other organizations,” the school’s headmaster, Dr. Terry Flowers, said.
The Dallas Sports Commission estimated a boost to the North Texas economy of more than $30 million.
“We take into account for economic impact where people are coming from, how long they are staying, how many people are traveling with them, what their spend is, some estimates based on historical numbers, how much they are spending on food and beverage, shopping, tickets, those types of things,” Dallas Sports Commission Executive Director Monica Paul said.
“We want to continue to elevate and ensure that the NHL, the NFL, the NCAA, the NBA wants to be here in Dallas, in Texas, to host their events,” Paul said.