by Lindsay Mogle | AHL On The Beat
Last week the Utica Comets announced that they will be taking a game outdoors for a showdown with their arch-rivals from Syracuse. The AIS Empire State Classic, expected to bring in 16,000 fans, will be played at Griffiss Technology and Business Park in Rome, N.Y., which has seen a massive resurgence since the Air Force Base on the location closed in the early 1990’s.
When an announcement that major happens, what often goes unnoticed is the tireless work that goes in behind the scenes. Every department — from the executives to corporate partnerships, ticketing to communications — works in sync to execute a well-thought-out plan.
One person who’s rarely seen, but whose work is always in the limelight, is the Comets’ vice president of creative services Eric Kowiatek. It is Kowiatek who thoughtfully designed a logo for the event that captures so much more than just an outdoor game; he created an ode to the state and region’s history, its military influence, and the game of hockey.
At first glance, it’s impossible to ignore the spanning B-52 bomber that takes up the middle portion of the logo. A nod to the Air Force base at Griffiss that was in operation from 1942 to 1995, B-52’s were often flown in and out of Rome. There is even a retired B-52 on display at the current Griffiss property as a reminder of the impact the Air Force had in the region.
And in the spirit of the Air Force history, a few more-subtle references are in the logo as well. A famous Air Force star makes the “0” in the “2021” at the top. Additionally, the cloud behind the B-52 is a direct reference to a similar cloud on the Air Force’s flag that is situated behind a spanning eagle.
The area’s military history doesn’t start and finish with the base, either. Nestled in the middle of Rome is Fort Stanwix, which was constructed in 1758 and guarded a portage known as the Oneida Carry during the French and Indian War. The snowflakes that are tucked in the logo are shaped in the aerial footprint of the fort.
Full of symbolism in every facet, the logo itself is shaped in the shield that is on the New York State flag.
“When I first began toying with the logo there were many different variations,” Kowiatek said. “We tried different centerpieces, symbolism, and fonts. When this one came together, a few of us shared a ‘that’s the one’ moment. The feedback has been great and I’m loving that people are beginning to understand some of the subtle themes that we put in there to recognize the region’s history.”
Kowiatek’s body of work also includes award-winning designs like the Comets’ alternate “U” logo and the team’s black “flying Comet” logo which will be worn twice by the team. But it’s not just the jerseys and logos he designs: a trip inside the Adirondack Bank Center is basically a trip into his brain. Anything you see has been conceptualized by him.
When the AIS Empire State Classic comes to life next February, it will be a complete celebration of the area’s history and one that will be remembered for years to come. Maybe even enough to inspire another designer’s logo one day.