The Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh: Do you want to save the Igloo?

The Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh: Do you want to save the Igloo?

The Pens recently played their last game of hockey ever in the Mellon Arena. Despite the intense loss, the fans gave a standing ovation to their team and the Igloo – many of them with tears in their eyes as they said farewell.

On Facebook, there are a few pages that have been created around the upcoming demise of the arena. Groups called Save the Igloo, R.I.P. Mellon Arena, Reuse the Igloo, and In loving memory of the mellon arena ♥ (this one has over 30k members… we think it’s because of the heart).

In particular, the members of Reuse the Igloo have been joining forces to try changing the plans for tearing down the Mellon Arena. The project is a spin-off of Preservation Pittsburgh, a group dedicated to preserving the local history, architecture, heritage and Pittsburgh culture overall. Along with other Pittsburghers who are concerned about the arena, they are proposing alternative uses for the building and have a petition that is going around requesting that the Civic Arena be declared as an historical landmark. So far there are 645 signatures at the time of this article.

Penguins officials are against keeping the Igloo and would prefer to demolish the building to “develop the property” for something else (hmm, maybe another boring-ass parking lot). Another thought is that maybe they’re concerned that leaving the old arena where it is could pose a great competition to the Consol Energy Center, so they’d much rather eliminate if possible. Don’t be surprised if their wishes are granted – despite the polls that are 70-80% in favor of reusing the Igloo. Just as the Save Braddock folks didn’t get their way, we’ll likely be be witnessing the destruction of the Civic Arena that will make us all remember the implosion of the Three Rivers Stadium back in 2001.

Future home of the Pittsburgh Penguins

Future home of the Pittsburgh Penguins

  • So, why was it called the Mellon Arena? The Civic Arena was a better name!
    The name was changed to the Mellon Arena in 1999 after Mellon Financial paid $18 million for the right to change the name for a 10 year period. Surely they wouldn’t call it the Igloo or Pens Palace – so they called named it something boring like Mellon Arena (still sounds much better than “Consol Energy Center” doesn’t it?)
  • What do they want to do with it if they save it?
    Skating rink, world’s largest park, hotel, library, retail space or mall, water park, residential apartment, indoor parking lot for the new arena, National Hockey League museum -or, a combination of all the above.
  • What if they tear it down?
    A developer, Don Cella, wants to use parts of the arena to create an office building on Camp Horne Road (more info here). Others suggest to auction off parts of the building like they did with the Three Rivers Stadium.

When it was built it was the largest dome structure in the world. And it opened. Think how unique that was at the time.

It’s a really innovative building, it really should become part of our future, not just our past.

In another month or so it will be 50 years old. It has served this city well as a venue for performing events, as a main arena for the Pittsburgh penguins. It has had many many lives. And now it’s on the verge of perhaps becoming extinct. And we are making an effort to try and avert that from happening.

The Penguins will soon be migrating to a new home in Pittsburgh. Their time at Mellon Arena is coming to an end. Beginning next season the puck will drop at the newly constructed Consol Engery Arena, directly across the street at the former Civic Arena. It was a bitter sweet night for Penguins fans attending the final regular season game.

It’s a building that will never be built again most likely, because you couldn’t afford to build it again. And, it’s a shame that they don’t open the building more often because I think that would be something that would really excite Pittsburgh.

This idea of reusing things is very important, I think, to our society.. it’s part of green design. The greenest building is one that already exists.

It’s going to cost $15-20 million dollars to demolish the building. It’s a lot of money, number one… number two, you’re losing something you’ll never get back. It’s truly a Pittsburgh landmark.

Some of the rich and famous who have used the Civic Arena as an entertainment venue:

  • The Beattles performed there in 1964
  • Elvis Presley sang there in 1973 and 1976
  • Muhammad Ali fought there
  • Frank Sinatra serenaded there
  • World Wrestling Federation wrestled there
  • Rolling Stones, U2, Led Zepplin, and The Grateful Dead have rocked out there
  • Michael Jackson danced there
  • Recently, Jay-Z put on a superstar performance there
  • The last performance will be a concert by Maxwell on July 10, 2010
  • More here..

Some general Mellon Arena stats and facts:

  • The arena was built between 1957 and 1961
  • It cost $22 million dollars to construct
  • Edgar J. Kaufmann, owner of Kaufmann’s department stores funded $1 million
  • It was the first major indoor sports center with a retractable roof
  • 2,950 tons of Pittsburgh made stainless steel were used
  • Seating capacity of 17,132 (w/ standing room)
  • The arch that supports the roof is 260 ft
  • The diameter of the roof is 415 ft
  • There are 8 sections that make up the roof
  • The arena footprint is about 170,000 sq ft
  • Originally built for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera
  • It has been home to the Pens since 1967
  • It is the NHL’s oldest hockey arena
  • It was first opened on September 19, 1961
Save the Igloo

Save the Igloo

Reuse the Igloo

Reuse the Igloo

Don't say goodbye, say hello.

Don't say goodbye, say hello.

More links and information about the Igloo:

Pittsburgh Preservation: Pittsburgh’s Igloo… Then and Now

Reuse the Igloo: Honor our past, keep it Civic for our future

Rob Pfaffman’s Reuse the Igloo

National Trust for Historical Preservation – Threatened: Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena

Should we keep or destroy the Mellon Arena?