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Mellon Arena
Mellon Arena

  Venue Resources  
Address 66 Mario Lemieux Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Phone (412) 642-1800
Official Website
Seating Weather
Newspaper
Satellite View
Penguins Gear
  Calendar / Tickets  
Hotels, Dining & Deals in Pittsburgh

  The Facility  
Opened September 19, 1961
Ownership
(Management)
City of Pittsburgh
(Spectacor Management Group)
Cost of Construction $22 million
Arena Financing 100% Publicly Financed.
Naming Rights Mellon Financial Corporation. Financial terms of the 10-year agreement were not disclosed in 1999.
Former Names Pittsburgh Civic Arena
(1961–1999)
Arena Architects Mitchell and Ritchey
  Other Facts  
Former Tenants Pittsburgh Penguins
(NHL) (1967-2010)
Pittsburgh Xplosion
(CBA) (2005-Present)
Pittsburgh Hornets
(AHL) (1961-1967)
Pittsburgh Spirit
(MISL) (1978-1980; 1981-1986)
Pittsburgh CrosseFire
(NLL) (2000)
Pittsburgh Gladiators
(AFL) (1987-1990)
Pittsburgh Phantoms
(RHI) (1994)
Pittsburgh Triangles
(World TeamTennis) (1974-1976)
Pittsburgh Bulls
(MILL) (1990-1993)
Pittsburgh Stingers
(CISL) (1994-1995)
Pittsburgh Pipers/Condors
(ABA) (1967-1973)
Pittsburgh Rens
(American Basketball League) (1961-1963)
Population Base 2,200,000
On Site Parking 5,000
Nearest Airport Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
Retired Numbers #21 Michel Briere
#66 Mario Lemieux
#99 Wayne Gretzky

Championships 1st

1991
2nd

1992
3rd

2009

  Seating  
Capacity 16,958
Average Ticket $36.61
(2006-2007)
$51.45
(2008-2009)
Fan Cost Index (FCI) $216.96
(2006-2007)
$276.30
(2008-2009)
The Team Marketing Report FCI includes: four average-price tickets; four small soft drinks; two small beers; four hot dogs; two game programs; parking; and two adult-size caps.
Luxury Suites 56 Suites
Club Seats 1,696
Basketball 17,537
Concerts 18,039
Boxing 18,150
  Attendance History  
Season  Total  Capacity Change
1992-93 660,290 95% 3.2%
1993-94 685,919 99% 3.9%
1994-95 386,599 95% -43.6%
1995-96 675,147 97% 74.6%
1996-97 684,322 98% 1.4%
1997-98 617,900 86% -9.7%
1998-99 607,825 85% -1.6%
1999-00 633,199 88% 4.2%
2000-01 655,937 96.7% 6.2%

2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05
641,615 604,798 486,961 None

2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09
647,975 673,395 700,137 695,997

2009-10      
700,211      

1994-1995 - Attendance for 24 games due to NHL lockout.
2004-2005 - NHL lockout

Sources: Mediaventures

Mellon Arena

When one talks about the old barns of the game, storied sites such as Maple Leaf Gardens come to mind. Probably the last building that would come to mind is Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena (formerly called the Civic Arena), affectionately known by the locals as the "Igloo."

No kidding. Next to Toronto's ice palace, Pittsburgh has the second oldest facility that is still in use. It is not as old as the Depression Era projects such the former St. Louis Arena or Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium. It doesn't invoke hockey traditions like the Boston Garden, Montreal Forum or even the relatively younger Spectrum in Philadelphia. Yet as designs go, the Civic Arena is perhaps one of the NHL's most unique.

Back in 1947, however, hockey was not the city's motivation for planning an arena on the Lower Hill District. It seems that Pittsburgh's Civic Light Opera, which had been playing at the University of Pittsburgh Football Stadium, was tired of having its performances rained out. It would take 11 years for planners to work out the details. Groundbreaking was finally held on April 25, 1957.

The arena finally opened on September 17, 1961. What had been constructed was one of the most unique structures of its time, a giant dome that retracted. In initial construction of the roof cost $2 million. It consisted of eight sections cut at 45-degree angles, six of which are able to rotate on 3,000 feet of rails. The girders, 34 feet above the floor, slope at a 13-degree angle. With each section of the roof powered by five motors, the arena can open completely in about two and a half minutes.

Other dimensions of the dome were impressive for their time:

Weight: 3,653 tons
Diameter: 417 feet
Area: 166,000 feet of stainless steel sheeting
Height: 155 feet above the ice surface

Strangely enough, the building did not have an official name at the time it was dedicated. The "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" began referring to it as the Civic Arena and the title stuck. The authority which managed the facility, wanted to call it the "Civic Auditorium," and even had its ushers wear buttons with that name. In the end, however, the authority relented to public opinion in October 1962 and formally adopted "Civic Arena."

The first hockey team in the Civic Arena was not the Penguins, but the Pittsburgh Hornets, an AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings which had relocated from nearby Duquesne Gardens. In 1967, the Hornets captured the Calder Cup (league championship) in what was their final season.

Just prior to the Penguins moving in during the late summer of 1967, the rink had to be shortened lengthwise and widthwise by 5 feet each way in order to conform to the NHL's 200 feet by 85 feet dimensions.

Mellon Arena
During their formative years, the Penguins struggled both on the ice and on the balance sheet. At the end of the 1974-75 season (after blowing a 3-0 series lead to the New York Islanders) the team was on the verge of bankruptcy. With a debt of $6.5 million, the franchise went into receivership, and the IRS padlocked the doors of the team's offices at the Civic Arena. The Penguins also had to pay a fine before they could return.

Additional seating levels would be subsequently added in 1975 and 1993. Capacity gradually increased from 12,000 to just over 17,000. In 1995, a bigger scoreboard was added, but produced one major drawback: the dome could no longer be opened completely due to the extra weight.

In its first four decades of history, the Mellon Arena has hosted many tenants: the American Basketball League's Rens, the American Basketball Association's Pipers and Condors, World Team Tennis' Triangles, the Major Indoor Soccer League's Spirit, the Major Soccer League's Stingers, the Arena Football League's Gladiators, the Major Indoor Lacrosse League's Bulls, Roller Hockey International's Phantoms, and the Duquesne University basketball teams.

The Mellon Arena was originally intended to house Pittsburgh's leading theater company, but within seven years, the Civic Light Opera would relocate across town. The Pittsburgh Penguins would outlast all of its neighbors and provide drama of a different sort.

Source: In the Crease

Fans call the home of the Penguins the Igloo because it looks rather forbidding. Located halfway up "The Hill," Mellon Arena was originally designed for use by the Civic Light Opera. But when the retractable roof was opened, their sound blew out, so the CLO moved on and the Penguins moved in.

The roof isn't opened that often and never for hockey games, but it works well. Built in 1961 of 2,950 tons of Pittsburgh steel, the arena features the largest retractable stainless steel roof in the world. The roof has no interior supports -- which means there are few obstructed-view seats in the Arena. The roof is 170,000 square feet and is designed to open or close in 2.5 minutes. The Igloo seats 17,537 for hockey and 18,500 for concerts. There are 56 skyboxes and 1,696 in-arena luxury seats. The arena also features the Igloo Club which can accommodate over 400 people for banquet functions. Located in the heart of Pittsburgh, the Civic Arena serves 2.7 million people in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia areas.

Mellon Arena history
* First regular-season game: Oct. 11, 1967, 2-1 loss to the Canadiens * First Stanley Cup finals game: May 15, 1991, 5-4 over the Minnesota North Stars * April 25, 1989: Mario Lemieux ties an NHL playoff record for scoring five goals -- four in one period -- when Pittsburgh wins Game 5 of the division final against Philadelphia, 10-7.

Mellon Arena
Copyright 2002 by Aerial Views Publishing

THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell

Mellon Arena Ranking by USRT
Architecture 8
Concessions 1.5
Scoreboard 2
Ushers 7
Fan Support 7
Location 8
Banners/History 80
Entertainment 5
Concourses/Fan Comfort 3
Bonus: Ads on Ceiling 2
Total Score 51.5
April 17, 2000 & March 27, 2004 - The 'Burgh is a regular and familiar stop for the Ultimate Sports Road Trip. Being just a three hour plus drive from Buffalo, it is then surprising that we have made but two trips to see the Penguins play... the first "official" visit was in 2000, and that was amidst an electric scene as the Penguins were fighting hard in the playoffs, but by 2004 things had changed drastically. The team has sold off its veterans for prospects, attendance has fallen off substantially, and the clamor for a new arena to keep this franchise financially viable is growing louder.

"Pittsburgh Civic Arena" opened in the mid 60s and is the only home the Penguins have ever had. It was designed and engineeered as a retractable roof dome, but the hydraulic jacks never worked properly and the roof has remained closed ever since. The entire mechanism is affixed to the arched silver roof outside and makes for some garish architecture, but otherwise the building itself is unique for its silver dome, and is certainly a distinctive part of Pittsburgh's downtown buildings.

Getting to the Venue
The arena is located in the center of downtown on Chatham Square. When arriving into the downtown area via I-279, signs will direct you off the interstate and through the city streets and right to the arena. A light rail train station is nearby, and parking is ample, with surface lots at the arena and parking garages in the downtown core. Parking at the arena runs $12, but event parking nearby can be found for $5-$8. Meters aren't monitored evenings and weekends, so if you are lucky enough to snag a spot on the street, then parking is free!

Outside the Venue
Chatham Square is on the doorstep of the arena, and the topography here is such that the building itself is built into a hill. When you stand at the door of Mellon Arena and look out, you enjoy a stunning view of the Pittsburgh skyline - tall gleaming skyscrapers with bank and financial service corporate logos dotting the tops. For the most part, downtown is pretty clean and safe, and there are restaurants and clubs to be found within walking distance. But the two best places in Pittsburgh to go for food, nightlife and action are the Strip District, about a mile east of downtown via Liberty Street, or Station Square, on the south shore across the river from downtown.

The Concourses
The concourses are a bit tighter than what we usually see. The arena's lower level features Pen Station, the team's merchandise store and an interactive game area called the Power Play Zone. This sits amidst an overwhelming amount of temporary merchandise and concession stands. Ramps and stairs take spectators to the upper levels of the arena, and one has to climb three flights of stairs to get to the upper balconies high above the goals.

Architecture and Seating Bowl
Mellon Arena
This venue is totally different than anything we have seen in the NHL. The large domed ceiling is emblazoned with four gigantic ad murals plastered right on the ceiling, one of course being Mellon Bank. The arena was remodeled for club seating, and the center ice lower seats have access to a special club area aptly named the Igloo Club. In each end zone are two large balconies, which were added after the building was opened. The center ice scoreboard is a four sided jumbotron and along the press gondolas are synchronized ad panels. Seats in the end zones which are tucked under the balconies offer an obstructed view of the seating bowl, although the ice surface is *barely* completely visible.

Concessions
This is where Mellon Arena earns major deductions. The food selection, quality and prices here are appalling. Nothing but ballpark dreck... tiny "super" dogs for $3.75, slice of pizza $5, beer, pop, nachos, popcorn and that's it. A major disappointment. To add to this, you go to Pittsburgh's peer sports venues and the food selection there are amazing. Our advice is to plan an early dinner before the hockey game or otherwise sneak in a sandwich.

Interestingly, there are point of sale merchandise kiosks everywhere in the building. The main team store is called "Pen Station", but if that's too crowded, then plan on finding your souvenir item at just about every section. Perhaps the Penguins should consolidate their merchandise stands and install some italian sausage grills.

Premium Seating
"The Igloo Club" is actually to premium lounges straddling the lower sidelines, and ticketholders in the lower sideline seats have access to their own private lounge and bar area. The seating areas are separated from the general seating areas and also have wider padded seats. There are also a number of skybox suites high above the seating bowl.

Banners/Retired Numbers
Several banners of significance hang from the underside of the Mellon. High above center ice is a banner of the Pens only retired number. Michel Briere's #21 was retired after he was tragically killed in a car accident. Banners for the Pens Division and Conference titles hang in one corner while another group of banners of their Stanley Cup Championship seasons stand across from them.

Above each sideline just below the suites is where you will find the Pens "Ring of Honor". Along one sideline is a pictoral mural of Penguin greats while the other has the names of the honorees.

Hat Tricks, Assists, Penalties...

Hat Trick....on our official visit, the karma strikes as the Pens take a commanding series lead on the Washington Capitals and win 4-3 on a late goal by Jeri Slegr. Damn were good!!! Then again....

Penalty... errr assist??? on our return visit, we saw our Sabres battle to 2-2 draw with the Pans.  Only the third time we have witnesses a draw in an arena outside our own in Buffalo. Regardless, the karma didn't come through for our Sabres as they blew a two goal lead and in the process a desperately needed point in their playoff push.

Assist... Worth mentioning that game day staff here is pretty friendly without being overbearing. Ushers checked our tickets but once upon arrival, and we were able to maneuver around the building and take photos without any hassles.

Troughs in the Restrooms.....is this a Penalty, Assist , Hat Trick???? Not sure, but it's worth mentioning.

Hat Trick....on our return visit, we made a visit to the Primanti Bros Deli in the popular Strip District. Their sandwiches are still amongst the top the heap for cool ballpark concessions to be found anywhere on the continent.

Assist... in the concourses, a Pittsburgh sports Hall of Fame exhibit with bronze plaques, and along one sideline corridor are large casual photos of current Penguin players.

Assist... Four massive, and we mean massive painted advertisements dominate the domed ceiling in the seating bowl. This whole look is unique among NHL venues, or any hockey rink for that matter.

Hat Trick... Penguins announce major ticket price reductions for the 2004-05 season... if there is a season. Placards were on each seat with the new price.

Summary
The Igloo has some positives, most notably that it has great atmosphere, and a charged fan base that is in place even for a totally meaningless late season game(for the Pens anyway) during a season that was lost prior to the new year. It's a characteristic that many of the newer and showier  venues don't have. On the other hand this place is still sorely lacking in what has become standard in most arenas....nicer sightlines, wider concourses, and a wider selection of delicacies (start with Primanti's, Quaker Steak and Lube and Benkovitz Seafood and work from there!) to name a few. But despite the dumpiness of this place, Mellon Arena is a throwback to a different time in the NHL, and for all "ooh ahh" showplaces we have seen in recent years, there is an atmosphere here, something that is an intangible but something that can't be replicated with bricks and mortar. This is a great sports town, and one can "feel" the excitement and enthusiasm of the fans just by stepping onto the arena grounds. A private consortium has pitched the city to build a privately funded arena for the city. If and when that day comes, the loss of this venue as one of the NHL's last old school arenas will, in a way, be a sad one.

March 23, 2006
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Fans began chanting for a new arena when the power went off twice last week at Pittsburgh Mellon Arena. Once the power was restored, it took 45 minutes for the bulbs to provide sufficient light for a game between the Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs to resume. The team used the time to show video of the new arena it is proposing. Fans responded by chanting their approval. Building officials said the problem was caused by Duquesne Light & Power which provides energy to the building. A second power problem affected a switch box at the arena

RENDELL HAS PLAN FOR PITTSBURGH ARENA
March 30, 2006
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says he will announce plans today (Thursday) to fund a new $290 million arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The move comes as Rendell is laying groundwork for a re-election campaign.

The plan would generate more than $18 million a year to meet debt service. The bonds would be supported by $7 million a year from a new Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund that will get its revenue from a share of slot machine revenue. The fund was created by the legislation that approved new slot machine licenses for the state.

The Penguins would be asked for $2.9 million a year in rent and to sign a 30-year lease. Arena food and beverage sales would contribute $1.1 million a year.

The final portion of the funding, $7.5 million, would be a voluntary contribution from the winner of a slot machine parlor license in Pittsburgh.

The plan reportedly would include a legislative requirement that the state's Gaming Control Board consider pledges for arena funds in any bid to operate a slot machine parlor in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are among the bidders and plan to use some proceeds to fund an arena. Other bidders could also pledge money toward an arena as part of their projects.

So far there are three bidders in the race. The Penguins have partnered with Isle of Capri Casinos in a bid that includes money for an arena. Harrah's Station Square Casino and Majestic Star Casino have also planned bids, but they have not included arena funds in their plan. The governor's plan is an alternative to the Penguins proposal.

Timing will be a critical issue. The Penguins need a decision quickly and the Gaming Control Board is not expected to make a decision until late this year. The team has said if a deal is not forthcoming, they will explore a move out of the area.

City and county leaders say they have little money to contribute to the program, but they could levy parking surcharges or take other steps to help finance the venue.

ARCHITECTS HAVE PLAN TO SAVE MELLON ARENA
December 3, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - Architect Rob Pfaffmann is urging the Sports and Exhibition Authority to find ways to save Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena, possibly by turning it into a public skating venue.

"This is going to be a long process. There is no need to rush the demolition of the arena," he said. "I can make the argument to the Penguins . . . that the economic advantage to keeping the arena is better than tearing it down."

Pfaffmann, a Downtown architect, said the team may be able to secure historic tax credits for the development. He also feels it is more cost effective to work with the existing infrastructure than to tear it up and start anew.

Noting that the arena is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, Pfaffmann told the board, "You have a responsibility to set a process that includes the community in the process. You haven't done that. We're going to make the same mistakes we made in 1954 [when Mellon Arena was planned] if we have a hidden process that does not have proper transparency."

The Penguins plan to develop 28 acres, including the Mellon Arena site, across from the new Consol Energy Center into a mix of residential, retail and office uses. Under the plan, the arena would be demolished and the land paved over and used for parking before other development takes place.

PITTSBURGH CONSIDERS FUTURE OF MELLON ARENA
January 21, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - City officials are considering whether Mellon Arena's future lies in the dust or as something other than an arena. Historic preservationists want to reuse the building, perhaps as a park and retail center. The Penguins want to demolish their longtime home and find a developer to create a residential and retail district on Centre Avenue across from the new Consol Energy Center.

"One of the alternatives is to demolish Mellon Arena," said Chris Cieslak, a principal with Chronicle Consulting who works for the Sports & Exhibition Authority, the arena's owner. "It is not a foregone conclusion."

Mary Conturo, the SEA's executive director, declined to speculate whether the Penguins could challenge the SEA in court if it decides to reuse the arena instead of demolishing it.

"If it's a reuse, it's a reuse that would benefit the redevelopment, so I wouldn't expect something like that to happen," she said.

Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said, "The Penguins believe that the best use of the Mellon Arena site is for the arena to come down and to create a dynamic mixed-use development."

A March 2007 agreement between the SEA and the Penguins, the arena's main tenant, states Mellon Arena would be demolished after completion of Consol Energy Center, which should be finished by mid-July.

Team executives have said removing the arena would free up land near the Downtown business district - a rare commodity.

Apartments or retailers could fill the void if an outside developer chooses to invest, team President David Morehouse has said.

The SEA hired Michael Baker Jr. Inc. of Moon to conduct a historic assessment of the 49-year-old arena. It is eligible to appear on the National Register of Historic Places mainly because of its unique, retractable dome.

Timothy Zinn, an architectural historian with Michael Baker, said his team is following state Historic and Museum Commission guidelines to determine whether demolishing the arena, or reusing it, would adversely affect historic structures or artifacts in the area. It could be six months before Michael Baker makes a recommendation to the SEA and the authority's board decides what to do.

REPORT RECOMMENDS THAT MELLON BE RAZED
April 29, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - A study done for the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority says the benefits of razing Mellon Arena once the Penguins move into their new venue are nearly twice value of keeping the building.

The study done by Oxford Development Co. was prepared as part of a mandated review to determine if there are alternative uses for the 48-year-old landmark.

It concluded that the Penguins' plan to demolish the arena and create a mixed use development that included housing, offices, shops and restaurants would have a public economic benefit of $103.5 million in wage and real estate taxes over 10 years. It would create an estimated 2,940 permanent jobs and $84 million in wages by the 10th year.

The study also looked at a proposal by architect Rob Pfaffmann's, which also includes housing, offices, retail and restaurants, and construction of a hotel as part of the arena reuse. That plan would have a $53.8 million benefit in wage and real estate taxes. It would create an estimated 2,498 permanent jobs and $72 million in wages by the 10th year.

The study estimates the cost of demolishing the arena and adding streets to reconnect the Hill District and Downtown at $28.35 million. It estimates infrastructure costs under Pfaffmann's plan, which also includes connections from the Hill to Downtown, at $26.4 million, with the largest cost - $9.4 million - to prepare the arena interior and open space for concerts and other events.

Pfaffmann said the study did not fully include the value of historic tax credits or development that might accrue.

The chief difference in the numbers appeared to be real estate taxes, with the Penguins' plan generating $73.3 million over 10 years versus $41.7 million over the same time under Pfaffmann's plan.

Even when the infrastructure costs are subtracted, the Penguins' plan emerges as the winner, with a net public benefit of $75.2 million compared to the reuse's $27.4 million.

In notes accompanying the figures, Oxford stated, “A cleared unconstrained site with new street grid which will reconnect the Hill to Downtown presents the best opportunity for private developers to design cost-effective and economically viable real estate investments for the residential, retail, office, and hospitality components.”

The Penguins, who won the right to develop the Mellon site and surrounding land, 28 acres in all, during negotiations on a new arena, welcomed the findings.

Mellon Arena is scheduled to close this summer when the Penguins move into the Consol Energy Center.

REPORT SUGGESTS THAT MELLON BE RAZED
June 10, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - A study of the future of Mellon Arena suggests that the venue be razed once the Penguins new Consol Energy Center arena opens.

The $321 million Consol Energy Center is set to open across the street from the 49-year-old arena this summer. The main tenant, the Penguins, own the rights to develop the property.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and other public officials have said Mellon Arena should be demolished to create room for retail and housing developments. The Sports & Exhibition Authority - whose members are appointed by the mayor and county executive - has the final say on what will happen but has not made public any decision.

The preservation bureau has 30 days to review the draft report, while a consulting firm hired by the two groups seeking alternatives to demolition completes its own study.

MELLON UPKEEP TO COST UP TO $100,000 A MONTH
June 24, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - The Sports & Exhibition Authority expects to spend from $78,000 to $100,000 a month to maintain Mellon Arena once the Penguins' new Consol Energy Center opens in August.

The monthly cost would cover insurance, security, utilities and maintaining the building's environmental and electrical systems, said Chris Cieslak, a consultant working with Oxford Development and the SEA.

The Penguins pay those costs, Cieslak said.

The authority is considering what to do with Mellon Arena. Studies recommend that it be razed while preservationists want to preserve the building.

Opened in 1961, it is eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique steel dome supported by an exterior cantilever.

MELLON ARENA MIGHT GO ON HISTORIC LIST
August 19, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is recommending a delay in razing the 48-year-old Mellon Arena to give Reuse the Igloo and others interested in saving it more time to develop alternative plans, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In a letter to the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, Jean Cutler, director of the Bureau for Historic Preservation, said a delay would allow the SEA to more "fully engage in assisting arena preservation advocates in creating a redevelopment plan based in the context of adaptive reuse of the arena site."

Cutler said the PHMC believes the arena is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and "embodies a significant and distinctive type of classic mid-20th century civic architecture," the newspaper reported.

"In our opinion, adaptive reuse of the arena would solidify Pittsburgh's growing reputation as a city that recognizes the value of pursuing development opportunities that are economically, environmentally, and culturally sustainable," she wrote.

The SEA is expected to recommend the demolition of the domed structure, formerly known as Mellon Arena, as part of the Penguins' plan to redevelop 28 acres across the street from the new Consol Energy Center.

THE IGLOO TO BE MELTED
September 23, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority has decided to raze the 49-year-old Mellon Arena once the Penguins move into their new home, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The decision came despite last-ditch pleas by preservationists, led by the group Reuse the Igloo, to save the old building.

Mary Conturo, SEA executive director, said the agency now will start removing asbestos from the building and prepare bids for demolition, which could be ready by February.

Architect Rob Pfaffmann, head of Reuse the Igloo, said the group would seek a court injunction at some point to block the demolition.

Tearing down the arena would create an "unencumbered development site" that would be attractive to developers, according to a report reviewed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The report said it would also allow for the restoration of the street grid between the Hill District and Downtown, a connection that was severed when the arena was built.

Demolition was anticipated in the 2007 agreement between the Penguins and state and local leaders to build the Consol Energy Center, which opened last month, the Post-Gazette said.

In that bargaining, the Penguins also won development right over 28 acres of land that includes the arena. They have plans to develop offices, housing and commercial space on the property.

MELLON ARENA PLAN RAISES FEDERAL CONCERNS
November 18, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - The federal agency that enforces the nation's historic preservation efforts is raising concerns about plans to raze Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh and suggests the city could lose federal funding for redevelopment if those concerns aren't addressed, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

In a letter, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation warned that the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority potentially could jeopardize millions of dollars in federal funding depending on the circumstances surrounding the demolition of the 49-year-old landmark.

The issue involves funding that the SEA is expected to seek from the Federal Highway Administration to restore much of the street grid that once connected the Hill District to Downtown once the arena has been demolished and the land cleared for a Penguins-led redevelopment.

SEA board members voted in September to remove the building, and the demolition is expected to start in March, the newspaper said.

In the letter, Charlene Dwin Vaughn, an assistant director for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, wrote that, under certain scenarios, the SEA could lose funding if it rushes ahead with the plan.

Since the arena is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a funding request involving the site could trigger review requirements under the National Historic Preservation Act designed to mitigate impacts to historic properties.

But if the Federal Highway Administration determines that the SEA "significantly adversely affected a historic property" in tearing down the building and did so with the intent to avoid review requirements, the agency would have to deny assistance, Vaughn wrote in the letter to the state historic preservation office. That's typically referred to as anticipatory demolition, the Post-Gazette said.

That could happen unless it was determined after consultation with the advisory council that "circumstances justified granting the assistance despite the adverse effect," she stated.

The advisory council billed its letter as a "clarification."

In an August letter, the agency had written there would be no basis to deny federal funding since there was no pending application for federal funding, a point the SEA has used to advance its cause.

Bruce Milhans, an advisory council spokesman, told the Post-Gazette the new letter was not only an attempt to clarify, but "to make points not expressed clearly enough in the initial letter." Mary Conturo, SEA executive director, was not moved by the letter.

She noted the advisory council also said in the letter that it was not aware of any pending application for funding and didn't even know if the demolition "is a certainty."

"This letter of the advisory council concludes that, based on facts that they see today, they do not see a basis for anticipatory demolition," she said.

Given that the SEA board already voted to raze the arena, Rob Pfaffmann, the local architect who heads Reuse the Igloo, a group opposed to the demolition, told the newspaper he would work to remind the advisory council the demolition "is a certainty."

MELLON'S DEMOLITION DELAYED
December 2, 2010
Copyright 2010 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - The nomination of the 49-year-old Mellon Arena as an historic city structure has effectively blocked plans to raze the venue until the Historic Review Commission acts, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The nomination by Hill District resident Eloise McDonald was prepared with the help of Preservation Pittsburgh and Reuse the Igloo, two groups that have been at the forefront of the effort to save the arena, the newspaper said.

While such a move has long been considered the "nuclear option" by those seeking to find a reuse for the building, Jeff Slack, a Preservation Pittsburgh board member, told the Post-Gazette there was little choice at this point in the battle.

"Preservation Pittsburgh and Reuse the Igloo are filing only as a last resort because we see the potential to benefit the Hill District, the city and the region to be greater with the arena in place as part of a long-term development," he said.

The nomination will go before the Historic Review Commission for a recommendation and then back to the planning commission, which would then make a recommendation to City Council. The process could take until August or September, the Post-Gazette said.

Members of both bodies are appointed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who supports the demolition.

In 2003, council turned back a bid by Preservation Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to designate the arena as a city historic structure. But Councilman Bill Peduto, who was part of that vote, told the newspaper the outcome isn't as certain this time.

"If you think council's a rubber stamp, look at the parking deal," he said, referring to its rejection of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's plan to sell off parking garages, lots and meters to stabilize the city pension fund.

Peduto said the nomination, even if it fails, could delay the demolition for nearly a year. The city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the arena, wants to start tearing down the building in early April.

While some commission members were sympathetic to the pleas to save the arena, they said the SEA had met the legal requirements under city law to proceed with the demolition.

If the arena is demolished, the site would become part of a 28-acre mixed-use residential, commercial and office redevelopment proposed by the Penguins.

The team won development rights to the land under a 2007 agreement to build the Consol Energy Center. The SEA agreed to demolish the arena as part of that accord.

March 3, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Reversing an earlier decision, the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission rejected a bid to nominate the 49-year-old Mellon Arena, former home of the Penguins, as a city historic structure, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In a 6-0 vote, the commission decided that the arena, despite its retractable roof and unique shape, did not meet any of the 10 criteria needed to be designated as a city historic structure. The city planning commission is expected to take up the matter later this month and could decide to hold a public hearing before taking a vote. That action is then forwarded in the form of a recommendation to city council.

PITTSBURGH PLANNING COMMISSION DENIES HISTORIC DESIGNATION
March 24, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Pittsburgh, Pa. - The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the city planning commission rejected a historic designation for the 49-year-old Civic Arena, moving it a step closer to demolition.

The arena's fate now rests in the hands of city council, which voted against historic status for the Igloo eight years ago. Earlier this month, the city historic review commission also voted against the designation.

Because both the planning and review commissions recommended against historic status, it will take the votes of at least six of nine council members to override that, the newspaper said.

Nonetheless, preservationists told the newspaper they were prepared to battle to the end to save the distinctive landmark with a one-of-a-kind retractable roof.

June 23, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

The Pittsburgh City Council voted to reject a proposed historic designation for the arena. A final vote is set for Tuesday. At least six council members would have to vote in favor of the designation in order for it to be approved. But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said that does not appear to be likely based on the vote. The Penguins want the land for redevelopment while preservationists want to find a new future for the venue.

June 30, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Mellon Arena is apparently headed for the wrecking ball. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette said the City Council rejected a city historic designation for the 49-year-old landmark, all but sealing its fate. Its decision allows the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, the arena's owner, to move forward with plans to demolish the structure with the retractable dome. The SEA wants to clear the site to make way for a 28-acre residential, commercial, and office development proposed by the Penguins. The team won development rights over the land in the 2007 deal to build the new Consol Energy Center across the street from the arena, the newspaper said.

July 7, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures

Preservation Pittsburgh took its effort to save the Civic Arena to federal court , suing the Sports & Exhibition Authority, the owner of the arena, along with numerous city, county and federal agencies, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported. The complaint said arena demolition would violate the National Historic Preservation Act by using highway funds to redevelop the site of the 50-year-old arena. It asks for a declaratory order that city actions to approve demolition are “unlawful and invalid,” and to bar the use of federal funds to rebuild streets around the 28-acre arena site. City Council rejected a historic designation that could have saved the 49-year-old landmark from demolition. The decision cleared the way for the Sports & Exhibition Authority to move ahead with plans to tear down the structure.

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