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FOR THE DECEMBER grand opening of Glendale {Ariz.} Arena, new home of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Merestone threw a spotlight on the lighting capabilities of the venue.

Planning for the big day lasted five weeks, but the real test came when the keys to the venue were turned over to Merestone, the team's dedicated production company, just days before the event. Merestone president Camille Luce Hill notes, “The challenge was working in a {venue} that was brand-new,” in addition to dealing with “things that {we} weren't expecting with the electrical, with availability, with how quickly equipment can get on and off the ice.”

On event day, more than 17,000 hockey fans entered the arena for their first glimpse of the new venue. A key production goal was the unveiling of a signature element of the arena: an enormous, state-of-the-art scoreboard suspended over center ice. To build excitement before revealing the scoreboard and introducing the team, Merestone created an elaborate “thunder and lightning” show using lasers and sound effects. A custom-designed 360-degree projection scrim hid the scoreboard as aerialists descended from the ceiling, effectively drawing the eyes of the audience upward while low-lying fog rolled out over the ice. A display of colored lights and cloud images — created using equipment including High End Systems' Catalyst Version 3 and 12 VariLite VL3000s — played across the surfaces of the scrim and fog before the scrim rose to reveal the new scoreboard.

To announce the team, the house lights dimmed and the sound of snarling coyotes echoed throughout the arena as red paw prints — created by lasers — ran out onto the ice, sliding to a stop in the center. The players then skated into the rink, where they were introduced to the cheering crowd as projectors beamed their photographs and stats onto the scoreboard.

The only glitch in the day's events, Hill says, came during the opening ceremony preceding the scoreboard reveal. The original plan called for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky to break a pane of candy glass with a Coyotes puck, signaling the start of a fireworks display. However, a combination of frigid temperatures and a brisk wind caused the candy glass to shatter into tiny pieces right before the start of the ceremony. A game Gretzky instead shot the puck straight into the center of the 12-foot-tall puck replica that served as a backdrop to the stage, setting off the fireworks. “No matter how much you plan, things change, and you have to adapt,” Hill laughs.

Merestone 7232 E. First St., Scottsdale, AZ 85251; 480/945-4631;

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