RALEIGH — Flying in and out of the Triangle will be a breeze for NHL All-Star Weekend visitors, because of a new airport terminal that is sunny, smart and pretty.
Getting around town might be more of a chore. We use cars here.
Visitors will rely mostly on taxis, limos and rental cars to move between their hotels and the two main venues this week: the RBC Center in West Raleigh, site of the SuperSkills Competition at 7 p.m. Saturday and the NHL All-Star Game at 4 p.m. Sunday; and the Raleigh Convention Center downtown.
While Raleigh is growing like crazy - larger now than 10 other NHL towns - it's still one of the least transit-friendly burgs on the circuit.
The past four host cities for hockey's stellar event (Montreal, Atlanta, Dallas and St. Paul) boast rail transit lines.
But Raleigh's ice rink, the RBC, isn't even on a bus route. The bus doesn't stop at our busy Amtrak station, either.
Some fans will be able to take advantage of special bus service for the two RBC events. The free Pepsi Caniac Coach will pick up riders at downtown, Glenwood South and North Hills locations and return them after both events.
Downtown is the site of a three-day NHL Fan Fair at the Convention Center and a two-day street festival. Once you find your way there, a free downtown shuttle called the R-Line makes a circuit every 15 minutes or so.
The NHL is using shuttles and renting 50 cars from one of its sponsors, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, to move athletes, officials and hockey bigwigs around town. RBC Bank and other corporate customers have booked limousines to ferry clients and executives to parties and concerts.
"The band 3 Doors Down is playing downtown Friday, and the NHL is having a private party down at the convention center Saturday after the SuperSkills competition, and we'll be responsible for getting people there," said John Fetzer, office manager for White Horse Transportation, who will have his entire fleet of 21 limousines on the street this weekend.
Crabtree Valley Mall will send shuttles to several hotels, to troll for shoppers and restaurant patrons.
Otherwise, if you didn't bring your car or rent one at the airport, you'll want to ask somebody at the hotel desk to call a cab.
"We try to use cabbies that we have a relationship with, so we know they'll be reliable," said Russ Smith, general manager of the Embassy Suites Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle (located, despite its name, in Cary).
Guests at the Renaissance North Hills in Raleigh might find themselves stepping into one of Abraham Faedeme's fleet of four brown-and-yellow All Star Taxi cabs.
"We deal with the Renaissance," said Faedeme, the All Star owner. "And I've been transporting the hockey players for years. I know most of them almost by name."
It will be a good weekend to be in the taxi business.
"Everybody's going to be at full capacity," Faedeme said. "We're going to sit down and talk with the drivers. They have to be very professional. The cars, inside and out, have to be spotless. We need to give a good impression for the visitors who come to our town."
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