Kazakhstan got its first modern large-scale arena with the opening of a new 12,000-seat venue for ice hockey in the capital of Astana, which is for now called New Ice Arena.
Among the guests for the opening on Sunday was IIHF President Rene Fasel, who congratulated Kazakhstan for its new arena before a symbolic face-off with Kazakhstan Ice Hockey Federation President Askar Mamin that opened the pre-season President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Cup tournament with the game between Barys Astana and KHL rival Metallurg Novokuznetsk.
The arena is a milestone for the Central Asian former Soviet republic. Until now the country’s top teams have been playing at ice rinks, old and new, with capacities limited to between 2,000 to 6,000 spectators.
Former NHL forward Dustin Boyd, who enters his fifth season with Barys, was the first goal scorer for the home team in the new arena when he netted the 1-1 goal after the opening marker from Metallurg Novokuznetsk’s Roman Berdnikov. The home team went on to achieve an auspicious result for their arena’s opening day with a 4-2 win.
Kazakhstan’s long-standing President Nursultan Nazarbayev inspected the arena the day before its inauguration and seemed happy with the outcome. For Kazakhstan’s KHL entry Barys Astana, the new arena will replace the Sports Palace Kazakhstan, which is good news for the club considering that the old rink was among the worst rated in the Russian-based cross-border league.
Having an arena that can now deservedly be called a palace, the Kazakhs hope to improve their international merits and inspire players to new heights in the future. The venue also includes an academy and a swimming-pool complex.
The new venue in Astana won’t be the only of one its kind in the country for long. In the old capital of Almaty the 12,000-seat Almaty Ice Arena is being built and will include two ice sheets and a swimming pool. It will be used for the 2017 Winter Universiade and was also part of the bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games that lost to Beijing.