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Arena Breaks the Ice With Public Before 'Canes Drop the Puck Friday

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RALEIGH — TheCarolina Hurricanesdrop the puck Friday night at Raleigh's newEntertainment and Sports Arena. Wednesday night, the public was invited inside for a sneak peek of the new facility.

The arena received its certificate of occupancy around noon Wednesday. Several hours later, 6,000 people came inside to check the arena out.

Tim Gillespie says it is more than he expected.

"I think it is spectacular, how everything is all ready to go. The acoustics in here are incredible, They've been testing the sound system," he says.

Preview night gave a curious public the chance to look around inside, and gave arena employees a chance to work the out bugs.

"It's really a practice for us, a run through before the real thing, the real deal on Friday night when we get 19,000 people," says Mark Stone, director of food and beverage services.

Stu Shaw will be one of those people in attendance on opening night. He thinks the arena looks great, but he has one complaint -- not enough leg room.

Crews will use every last second to finish before Friday. They have spent this week putting the finishing touches on the arena.

The fire systems and concession stands received their final inspections Tuesday. The big screen was also tested.

Cleaning is the big priority and making sure everything is in place when the Hurricanes hit the ice.

"Trash cans, staging equipment, spot lights, we put in spot lights yesterday," said arena operations manager Davin Olsen. "We're beginning to put in communications systems. The walkie-talkies systems are in today."

Officials say the arena really stacks up against others around the country, especially the view from the seats.

Officials hope fans will cheer about the building design, as well as their teams. There are exits on each concourse, which allows the arena to clear 20,000 people in just seven minutes.

"All of our concessions are on the outboard of the building, all the bathrooms are on the outboard of the building. So, the circulation around the arena bowl, where people want to go to see other people and visit, is free flowing," said Centennial Authority president Steve Stroud.

When the doors finally open for the first time, officials say they will be ready.

"We anticipate somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1.7 million people a year," said Olsen. "It's our goal to make every one of those 1.7 million happy when they come and when they leave this arena."

The opening game is sold out. Season ticket holders who only received their opening game tickets can expect to get the rest of their tickets in the mail soon. andLynda LovelandandDavid RennerandMichelle Singer


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