When Canadian ice hockey player-turned-coach Pat Curcio visited San Francisco’s historic Cow Palace in 2011 for a show, he realized he could make his dream of owning and operating a professional hockey team a reality. The puzzle piece he had needed–a venue–was right in front of him. Nearly $2 million later, Curcio debuted his San Jose Sharks affiliated team–the San Francisco Bulls–to the Bay Area for its 2012 debut.
But first things first: Curcio had to transform the 30,000-square foot event space, known for hosting rodeos and concerts, into a professional ice rink. Foremost, it needed a new ice system. The old system was outdated, and as it turns out, illegal. The ammonium-based cooling system had to go.
“The old system was rusted and filled with asbestos and needed to be completely replaced,” Bulls Media Relations Director Jason Lockhart wrote the SmartVan in an e-mail. “The SF Bulls replaced the piping and the floor chillers. We have switched to a Brine Glycol System — state-of-the-art chillers that are cost effective and environmentally friendly.”
Next, Curcio had to address technology–or lack of it. The barn-like venue, which first opened its doors in 1941, was not equipped to hold a pro-level sports event: There was no overhead scoreboard, no sound system, and no re-play screen. For this, Curcio hired Slovakian company Colosseo to install what they call “The Cube” — a 360-degree, 11,000-pound LED monitor and scoreboard located above center ice and supported by 45-foot steel beams. Curio spent the bulk of his multi-million dollar investment on this piece of equipment.
“We’re further advanced with this technology than any NHL team,” Curcio told the SF Examiner. “It’s just a matter of time before the big boys wanna get their hands on it.”
Then came creating new locker rooms and workout spaces, revamping concession stands, building a beer garden, and scouting a team of professional-caliber players. All in all it took a year to complete the new stadium.
“When we came to the venue the first time, we weren’t sure what we needed to do,” Curcio told the SF Examiner. “And I think that if we would’ve known everything then, it probably would’ve scared us off. But once we got involved and we started doing all the things we thought were necessary, we just continued to go from there.”