U.S. Women's Hockey Team arrives

— The floor has been laid, the menus have been prepared and the ice has been frozen.

Everything is set for when the U.S. Women's Hockey Team comes to town today for a three-day stay before heading to Salt Lake City to defend its Olympic gold medal.

Thursday afternoon Fox Construction was putting the finishing touches on the two locker rooms the U.S. team will use while it practices at Howelsen Ice Rink. More than seven months of remodeling was put to rest when the company finished installing toilets and stalls on Thursday and laid the last floor tile Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the company finished putting plastic caps on the new heated bleachers.

Fox Construction also finished the rink's two public restrooms, which will come in handy when the public gathers for the team's open practices and when 750 fans will watch the U.S. team take on Steamboat's Midget team Sunday.

But it's the ice that is the most important element in greeting the U.S. hockey team. Howelsen Ice Rink manager Stacey Foster said crews have been putting in extra time to make sure the ice is like a sheet of glass and a rink the U.S. team will want to return to.

"We want the ice to be excellent. We've got some extra ice time breaks to maintain a really solid, good ice sheet," Foster said.

The rink will also have an additional 21 security staffers on hand to make sure things run smoothly at Friday and Saturday's open team practices and Sunday's scrimmage. With tickets selling out for the scrimmage against Steamboat's high school-aged team, the rink will have its largest crowd ever Sunday.

Foster urges those attending the scrimmage to come one hour prior to the 1 p.m. start because bleacher seating is limited with only a 560-seat capacity. With many people wanting to see the U.S. team in action but not able to purchase tickets, Foster also is expecting large crowds to turn out for the free open practices.

On Saturday, open team practice starts at 10 a.m. and is followed by a free clinic for women and girl hockey players starting at 11:45 a.m.

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