It feels like it was only a few months ago that the NHL finally announced the 2011 All-Star Game was coming to Raleigh. Actually, it was only a few months ago. That's how little time the Triangle was given to prepare.
And now, with the All-Star weekend festivities only 100 days away, the Carolina Hurricanes and the 28-person local organizing committee set up to help host the event are working through their final preparations for the game.
"In the world of sports event planning, 100 days is the day after tomorrow," said Scott Dupree, the vice president for sports marketing at the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau and the co-chair of the organizing committee. "We're in the home stretch."
For the Hurricanes, there isn't that much to be done. Having hosted three significant NHL events in the building already - two Stanley Cup finals and the 2004 NHL Draft - the team knows exactly what to expect from the league and exactly what it is expected to provide when the doors open for the skills competition on Jan. 29 and the game on Jan. 30.
The NHL may have its weak spots, but running big events isn't one of them. The league knows how to put on a show, and it brings its own expertise and equipment to the table. That would make things easy for the Hurricanes even if they weren't relative veterans when it comes to hosting a league event.
"Once you're inside the [arena] bowl, it's no different than any other game, aside from the extra space for the press and broadcasters," said RBC Center general manager Dave Olsen, who is leading the team's All-Star preparations. "It's just another game day. It's a high-profile, great event, but when it comes to operations, it's nothing unusual."
But for the organizing committee, which includes representatives from the public and private sectors alike, these final three months and change will be a sprint to the finish in an attempt to create a festival atmosphere surrounding the game and present Raleigh and the Triangle in the best possible light.
The first and most visible sign that the All-Star Game is coming will be new banners hung from light poles in Raleigh, Cary, around the arena and at Raleigh-Durham International Airport - 400 of them, with the goal to get the first batch up at the RBC Center before the Hurricanes play their home opener Wednesday.
That signage will be augmented by huge banners on the sides of buildings in downtown Raleigh, on the outside of the arena and at the airport, welcoming All-Star guests to town. And when they get here, the city of Raleigh is planning a downtown festival for fans and visitors that will accompany the NHL's official plans.
The organizing committee has nine subcommittees charged with everything from the usual signage and event planning to setting up VIP teams - to offer personal service to the visiting All-Stars and their families - and making tee times available to NHL owners and sponsors on some of the Triangle's best golf courses.
It's an ambitious - and expensive - agenda that goes far beyond the events the NHL already has planned.
"We've got a ton of folks working on this," Dupree said. "The community is really stepping up in a big way."
It took a long time for the NHL to deliver on its All-Star promise to the Triangle, and now that dream is only a few short months from coming to fruition.