PULA, Croatia – In September you can truly refer to hockey players as gladiators when Croatia’s top club Medvescak Zagreb moves to the Roman amphitheatre in Pula for two games.
The announcement of the event titled “Arena Ice Fever – Pula MMXII” was done on Tuesday with a press conference under the summer heat at the Pula Arena. The arena built between 27 BC and 68 AD at the Mediterranean Sea in the capital of the Istria peninsula is one of the largest and best preserved amphitheatres of the old Roman Empire and has hosted film coulisses, opera singers and pop stars, but never before a hockey game.
This needs to be changed, according to the management of Medvescak Zagreb. The club from the country of just 437 registered hockey players is a phenomenon.
It came out of the dark when it joined the Austria-based EBEL league in the 2009/2010 season. For the first time since losing the rivalries within former Yugoslavia in the early ‘90s, professional hockey was played in the country and the fans stormed the arena.
Last season Medvescak drew an average attendance of 8,835 – 12th-most in Europe. The club was lured by the Russian KHL, but decided to wait rather than going on a financial adventure that quickly.
Medvescak has been creative already in the past, hosting games at its traditional outdoor rink or the city’s huge multifunctional arena, but by going 260 kilometres westwards to the touristy seaside to Pula, where ice is known to cool cocktails and fish rather than as a playing surface, it is taking its publicity up a few steps.
On 14th September Medvescak Zagreb will host Olimpija Ljubljana. The team from the Slovenian capital is actually closer to Pula, 200 kilometres north of the city. Two days later the Vienna Capitals will play in Pula.
The arena will be able to accommodate 7,022 spectators for each of the two games and the stands will have names in true Roman fashion such as Tribuna Moderna, Tribuna Antiqua, Tribuna Histria or for the well-off Circo Imperium and Circo Senatus.
The size of the ice surface will be at the lower end of the rulebook’s scale with 57 x 26 metres and 22 mega-trucks and two cranes will come to build up the rink and temporary stands. 70 employees and six foreign experts will work on the project under the careful supervision of the Arena Conservatory to make sure the set-up and the maintenance of the ice rink will succeed with temperatures of up to 30°C possible during the day in that time of the year.
Tickets are available as of 20 June for 190 to 625 Kuna (approx. €25-83) at the Croatian and Slovenian Eventim outlets and webpages, and on oeticket.com in Austria.
There will also be a fan zone “Circus Maximus” nearby the arena and on the evening between the two games fans have the chance to skate on the ice at the historic venue with the Medvescak players.
Click here for a video presentation of the project.