Tucked within the cozy “coastal cluster” of venues for the Winter Games in the Russian resort town of Sochi, the Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Shayba Arena — the two homes for hockey during the Olympics — sit less than 1,000 feet from each other. American fans will first need to get a touch more familiar with the smaller Shayba, at least during the preliminary rounds.
Shayba, which means “puck” in Russian, is more than just a clever name, it was also the inspiration for the arena’s architectural design. Its blue-gray roof is meant to evoke movement as colors travel around the side of the cylindrical-shaped building. Shayba holds 7,000 fans and will host five of USA Hockey’s first six contests.
The U.S. women’s team opens the Olympic hockey tournament in Shayba, first against Finland on Feb. 8, and then against Switzerland on Feb. 10 and Canada on Feb. 12. The U.S. men launch their quest for gold at the arena on Feb. 13, against Slovakia. After the Olmpics are over, this “moveable venue” will be dismantled and transported to another Russian city to serve as an ice palace.
The Bolshoy Ice Dome is where all teams really want to play, as the larger 12,000-seat venue hosts the more meaningful games later in the tournament. It’s also the site of the U.S. men’s second game, on Feb. 15, against Russia. The Americans return to Shayba on Feb. 16 to face Slovenia.
The silver-gray roof of the Bolshoy may appear a bit bland during the day, but when it lights up at night, Olympic hockey’s showcase home will be just a tad wild to behold. An aluminum-paneled dome, handmade to create a smooth surface studded by 38,000 LED lights, is draped over the top of the building. Inside, the traditional bowl-style seating offers some architectural flair with glazed glass on the concourse, allowing fans to gaze out toward the Caucasus Mountains. (In all, 35,000 square feet of this curtain-like glass was installed in the arena.)
The term “Bolshoy,” which actually means “major” or “great,” reminds the world of Russia’s famed Bolshoi Theatre and the country’s rich tradition in both ballet and ice sports. Of course, many other countries will be hoping that the Bolshoy Ice Dome serves as a stage for their success on ice during the Sochi Games.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.