Consol Energy Center
|Location||1001 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219|
|Public transit||Steel Plaza (PAT station)|
|Owner||Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County|
|Operator||Anschutz Entertainment Group/AEG|
|Capacity||18,387 (Ice hockey)
16,280 (Arena Football)
14,536 (End stage)
19,758 (Center stage)
|Field size||720,000 square feet (67,000 m2)|
|Scoreboard||15x25 Mitsubishi "Black-Packaged LED"|
|Broke ground||August 14, 2008|
|Built||August 2008 – August 2010|
|Opened||August 18, 2010|
|Construction cost||$321 million
($352 million in 2014 dollars)
|Project manager||ICON Venue Group|
|Structural engineer||Thornton Tomasetti/Raudenbush|
|Services engineer||M-E Engineers, Inc.|
|General contractor||Hunt Construction Group|
|Main contractors||Oxford Development
Pittsburgh Arena Development, LP
|Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL) (2010–present)
Pittsburgh Power (AFL) (2011–present)
Construction was completed on August 1, 2010, and opened in time for the 2010–11 NHL season. The arena replaced the Penguins' former arena, Civic Arena (formerly known as Mellon Arena), which was completed in 1961. A ceremonial ground-breaking was held on August 14, 2008. The arena is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified arena in both the NHL and AFL. As soon as the center opened in 2010 it was lauded as one of the best arenas in the world, winning both "Best New Major Concert Venue" in the Pollstar Concert Industry Awards and "Best NHL Arena" in the Sports Business Journal reader poll. The arena is named for Consol Energy, which purchased the naming rights in December 2008.
Planning and funding
The Lemieux Group explored options to build a replacement for Pittsburgh Civic Arena, the oldest arena in the NHL, since its purchase of the Penguins in 1999. In an attempt not to use public funding, the Penguins filed for a slots license under the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The Penguins were granted the license, though the decision of which casino company would receive approval was the Gaming Control Board's decision. The Lemieux Group reached an agreement with Isle of Capri Casinos, which offered to fully fund a $290 million arena, if Capri could also construct a $500 million casino nearby. Other casinos, including Majestic Star Casino and Forest City Enterprises, also agreed to partially contribute to the arena's funding. On December 20, 2006, the Gaming Control Board awarded the license to Majestic Star Casino, who agreed to pay $7.5 million for the first 30 years, in addition to the Penguins paying $4 million per year. The casino experienced financial difficulty, which could have led to taxpayers financing the entire project. However, on August 14, 2008 the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board selected Neil Bluhm to take ownership of the casinos, which pulled the casinos out of risk of bankruptcy.
The arena's funding plan was agreed upon by Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell on March 13, 2007, after much negotiation. During negotiations, the Penguins explored moving the franchise to Kansas City or Las Vegas; after the deal was made the Penguins agreed to stay in Pittsburgh for at least thirty more years. Lemieux later stated that relocating the franchise was never a possibility, but instead it was a negotiation tactic to help the team get funding for the arena from both state and local officials. The arena was originally scheduled to open for the 2009–10 NHL season; however, this was pushed back to the 2010–11 NHL season. The arena was expected to cost approximately $290 million, but rose to $321 million due to increased cost of steel and insurance. The Penguins agreed to pay $3.8 million per year toward construction, with an additional $400,000 per year toward capital improvements. After $31 million cost rise, the Penguins pledged an additional $15.5 million, while the State and Sports and Exhibition Authority split the difference. In September 2009, the State contributed an additional $5.08 million from the "Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund" to cover a rising "interest on variable rate bonds".
The arena is expected to help the surrounding area grow financially; plans are in place to construct a bar and a grocery store nearby. In October 2008, the Penguins reached an agreement with the Horizon Properties Group to build a 135-room hotel adjacent to the arena. A "nationally-franchised hotel" is expected to open in August 2010. A 15-foot montage of pictures inspired by the works of August Wilson will be created for Fifth and Centre Avenues.
Design and construction
Populous, designers of PNC Park and Heinz Field, designed the building working with local architect Astorino to develop the construction documents, while the ICON Venue group and Oxford Development oversaw the building of the arena. More than a dozen buildings were razed in order to create room for the new arena. On April 8, 2008, Populous presented design renderings to the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission, receiving negative feedback. Local architect Rob Pfaffmann went so far as to say, "If I put a Home Depot sign on that, it looks like a Home Depot." Populous returned on May 6 with new plans, which were unanimously approved by the City Planning Commission.
The Penguins have contacted the Pittsburgh Technology Council, which includes 1,400 businesses, in order to find new technologies to implement into the arena's design. On demand replays from touch-screens will be available in luxury suites, while "Yinz Cam"—a system developed by Carnegie Mellon University students—will allow any fans to view instant replays from multiple angles on their cell phones. The arena's capacity will be 18,087 for hockey, in honor of Sidney Crosby's number 87, and 19,000 for basketball games. The venue will hold 14,536 to 19,758 for concerts, depending on the layout. The venue will also include 1,950 club seats and 66 suites, in honor of Mario Lemieux's number 66. Ticket prices will range from $115,000 to $150,000 per season for luxury boxes to individual game tickets at $22. Ken Sawyer, Penguins' chief executive officer, has asked that the interior be modeled after Jobing.com Arena in Phoenix. "I was just taken aback by their seats," said Sawyer, "Even when I was up in a high level, I had a great view." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the building "very well designed." Bettman liked the size of the concourses and the view offered of Pittsburgh's skyline.
Mario Lemieux along with officials from the state and local governments ceremonially broke ground on a new hockey arena on August 14, 2008. Shovels, with shafts made from team captain Sidney Crosby's used hockey sticks, were used for the ground-breaking ceremony. Erection of structural steel took place from January 2009 to August 2009. While the arena was under construction, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, and brought the Cup to the arena's construction site on July 9, 2009 during the offseason.
The arena is named for Consol Energy, the largest producer of bituminous coal in the United States, which signed a 21-year agreement with the Penguins in December 2008. Secondary sponsors of the arena will be PNC Wealth Management, UPMC, Verizon, American Eagle Outfitters, and Dick's Sporting Goods, the last three being existing sponsors carrying over from the Civic Arena.
Consol Energy Center is one of the only major sports venues whose soft drink contract isn't with Coca-Cola or Pepsi. (Coca-Cola previously held the contract with Civic Arena.) Instead, Dr Pepper Snapple Group holds a contract, and serves its own products such as RC Cola, Diet Rite, Cherikee Red, and Sunkist Orange Soda, in addition to its more popular brands such as Dr Pepper, 7 Up, and A&W Root Beer that are typically sold alongside Coke or Pepsi products in other venues. At the time of the arena's opening, Heinz Field sold Coke products and PNC Park sold Pepsi products, making Pittsburgh's three major sporting venues initially each selling different soft drinks. In 2012, Heinz Field joined PNC Park in pouring Pepsi products, breaking a 50-year commitment with Coca-Cola, while PNC Park will switch to Coke products for 2014. The final years of the Civic Arena were without a pouring rights contract due to its impending demolition. In this time, Coke retained pouring rights in fountains (seemingly due to the cost of a large scale changeover) and Dr Pepper/7up products were exclusively sold in bottles. This is one of the few times that a venue this large has sold products from competing soft drink companies.
As with most other NHL arenas, the Penguins make use of a goal horn whenever the team scores a goal at home. It is also played just before the beginning of a home game, and after the Penguins win. Their current goal horn, made by Nathan Manufacturing, Inc. and introduced in 2005 to coincide with the arrival of Sidney Crosby to the team, was brought over from the Civic Arena to the Consol Energy Center after the Penguins closed the Civic Arena.
Team owner Mario Lemieux and captain Sidney Crosby officially christened the new ice on July 27, 2010, the same day as the official press conference to announce the 2011 NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field. The two skated for about five minutes before being joined on the ice by a group of young hockey fans all wearing Lemieux's #66 or Crosby's #87 jerseys.
The Penguins opened the arena with a preseason game on September 22, 2010 with a 5–1 win over the rival Detroit Red Wings. Penguins' forward Mike Comrie scored the very first goal in the new arena, 81 seconds into the game. The team also added a third home preseason game to the schedule. Team president David Morehouse said, "Our feeling is that more fans will want the chance to see and experience Consol Energy Center, so we thought it made sense to add the third preseason home game."
The Penguins officially opened the building on October 7, 2010 against their cross-state rivals Philadelphia Flyers, with the Penguins falling 3–2. The first goal was scored by the Flyers forward Daniel Brière at 2:51 in the 2nd period, a power play goal. The first Penguin goal was scored by forward Tyler Kennedy 44 seconds into the 3rd period. The stars of the game were awarded to Kennedy, Claude Giroux and Flyers rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 29 of 31 saves in his NHL debut. The Penguins earned their first win at the arena on October 15, 2010 against the New York Islanders, prevailing on an overtime power-play goal by defenseman Alex Goligoski. It was also the first overtime game at the new arena. Goaltender Brent Johnson earned the win for the Penguins, making 22 saves.
The first playoff game in the Consol Energy Center was against the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 13, 2011. The first playoff goal in the building was scored by Alex Kovalev. The Penguins would go on to win the first playoff game by a score of 3–0. Marc-Andre Fleury had a 32 save shutout. The Penguins would go on to lose in seven games.
During the 2011 offseason, 300 seats were added, increasing the hockey seating capacity from 18,087 to 18,387.
On July 13, 2010, the arena was selected to host the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four, scheduled for April 11 and 13, 2013. The Penguins along with Robert Morris University will mark the first NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey championship held in the state of Pennsylvania and also the first major team sport in NCAA history to hold its national championship game in the city of Pittsburgh. "We are absolutely thrilled to have been chosen to host the 2013 Frozen Four at the Consol Energy Center," RMU head men's ice hockey coach Derek Schooley said. "The Frozen Four will be a major showcase for the city of Pittsburgh as well as our emerging hockey program. This is one of the NCAA's premier events, and Robert Morris and the city of Pittsburgh will be an excellent host."
In December 2012, the arena began hosting the Three Rivers Classic, a two-day Division I college ice hockey tournament. The inaugural tournament took place on December 28–28, 2012 and featured teams from Penn State, Robert Morris University, Ohio State and Miami (Ohio) University. Robert Morris University won the first Classic title, in a 1-0 win over Miami (Ohio). The 2013 Classic featured Robert Morris and Penn State as the permanent fixtures, and also featured Boston College and Bowling Green University, with Boston College winning 8-2 over Penn State in the Championship game. Meanwhile teams such as the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota are seen as potential participants for upcoming Classics.
The first collegiate event at the Consol Energy Center was the fifth-annual College Hockey Showcase on October 17, 2010, hosted by Robert Morris. In the events first game the Lady Colonials were defeated by the women's Northeastern Huskies, 4–3. The Colonials ACHA club team beat Pitt 6–4. In the arena's first NCAA men's game, the Colonials men's team defeated Air Force, 3–2.
In conjunction with the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, held on January 2 at nearby Heinz Field, a collegiate game and an American Hockey League game were contested at the Consol Energy Center on December 30, 2010. The first game matched the RIT Tigers men's ice hockey team against the Robert Morris Colonials; RIT won 4–3. The second game matched the top-level affiliates of the two Winter Classic teams (the Penguins and the Washington Capitals), the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears; the Bears won 1–0.
Both the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University have dedicated locker rooms in the arena for use by the schools' basketball teams. Both the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University made their first appearance on December 1, 2010 in the City Game, the first ever basketball game hosted in the venue. A neutral venue, Pitt was designated as the home team for the game, which the Panthers won 80–66. The first points at the arena were made by Duquesne freshman guard T. J. McConnell, with a basket at 27 seconds into the game.
The arena hosted the 2010 SEC/Big East Invitational with Auburn University vs. Rutgers University and University of Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee, Pitt's second appearance at the Consol. The games were televised nationally on ESPN2 and ESPN respectively.
Duquesne University hosted 3 home games in the 2010-2011 season; on December 12 versus West Virginia University, University of Dayton on January 30, 2011, and Xavier University on February 13, 2011. During the 2012-2013 NHL lockout, Duquesne again hosted three home games - December 12 vs West Virginia, January 19 vs. VCU, and February 9 vs. Xavier. For the 2013-14 basketball season, Duquesne will host Penn State on December 11 and Dayton on February 22.
Duquesne hosted second and third round games of the 2012 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament at the arena and will host second and third round games again in 2015. Duquesne had hosted three prior times at Civic Arena: 1997, 2001 (women's) and 2002.
Arena football is a game resembling American football that is played on a shorter indoor field between two teams of eight players each. Shortly after Consol was built, the Arena Football League considered starting an expansion team in the arena, but the league folded in August 2009. However, after a two-year hiatus, the AFL returned and eyed an expansion team in Pittsburgh. On August 19, 2010, news sources reported that the Consol Energy Center would be home to the Pittsburgh Power, which began play in the spring of 2011. The team's ownership group includes former Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Pittsburgh was the 5th city added for the 2011 AFL season, joining the San Jose SaberCats, Kansas City Command, New Orleans VooDoo and Philadelphia Soul – who were all previous members of the Arena Football League. Playing in a city renowned for its enthusiasm for sports, the Power finished its inaugural season with impressive attendance figures. In nine home games, the Power averaged 9,197 fans per game, a figure that included an audience of 13,904 that showed up for the season opener against the Philadelphia Soul. Overall, the Power ranked sixth among the 18 Arena Football League teams in average attendance through 17 games that season, and its average attendance was about 1,000 people more than the AFL average.
Consol Energy Center is served by exits at Mile 1 of Interstate 579 and exits 70A and 72B of Interstate 376 it is also within 1 mile of Interstate 279. Three blocks to the west of the Center is the Steel Plaza transit station of the Pittsburgh subway system.
The arena opened on August 18, 2010, with a performance by Paul McCartney. The demand for the first show was so great that tickets sold out within five minutes of going on sale. This prompted the addition of a second show, a day later on August 19. Originally, Pittsburgh's own Christina Aguilera was planning to open the arena on August 3, 2010. Due to conflicts with construction, Aguilera canceled her show.
Other performers during the arena's first month included Lady Gaga, Roger Waters and Rush. George Strait, Reba McEntire, and Lee Ann Womack performed at the arena on October 14, 2010. Justin Bieber performed on both his My World Tour on December 13, 2010, and on his Believe Tour on November 20, 2012, both to sell-out crowds. Cher performed at the venue during her Dressed To Kill Tour on April 2, 2014. Katy Perry will be bringing her The Prismatic World Tour to the arena on July 22, 2014.
WWE, which typically draws well in Pittsburgh (a traditional stop for the company before its national expansion in the 1980s), has held several shows at Consol Energy Center since its opening and hosted its first WWE pay-per-view at the arena, the 2014 Royal Rumble, on January 26, 2014.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Consol Energy Center.|
- Official Site
- Diagram of the arena's site
- Live feed of construction
- Consol Energy Center Seating Charts
- Details on the Arena's technology