Crosby’s touch evident as Penguins open new arena
The Pittsburgh Penguins have won three Stanley Cups, and played
for a fourth. They’ve experienced two bankruptcies, and multiple
retirements by Mario Lemieux.
What they’ve never done until now is play a game in their own,
All that changes Thursday when the Penguins officially christen
Sidney Crosby Arena – er, actually, Consol Energy Center – with a
season-opening game against the Philadelphia Flyers before their
167th consecutive sellout crowd.
The arena took one bankruptcy, one Lemieux retirement and seven
years of politicking to achieve but, if three exhibition games
there are any indication, the 18,087-seat structure should soon
move near the top of the NHL’s new arena hierarchy.
While the nomenclature The House That Mario Lemieux Built is
more accurate – the Hall of Fame player and Penguins co-owner spent
seven oft-frustrating years lobbying for the new building –
everything about the arena seemingly has been touched by Crosby,
right down to his No. 87 being the final two digits of its
capacity. There’s even a cupboard in the team’s expansive locker
room, fitness area and recreation room to house his favorite
”For a brand-new building, it seems pretty homey right away,”
Crosby said. ”It’s a little bigger than we’re used to.”
Bigger, better, brighter, cleaner, fancier. All those terms fit
following 43 seasons in the Civic Arena, which was built for the
Civic Light Opera in 1961 and was retrofitted for hockey six years
later after Pittsburgh gained an NHL expansion franchise.
”I’m really excited top play in the new building,” forward
Evgeni Malkin said.
He’s not alone.
Crosby and the other Penguins players were given considerable
input into the design and makeup of their dressing room at the
arena, which was wedged into a lot across the street from the
now-closed Civic Arena that was owned by the Penguins. Space is so
tight that a Catholic church partially obscures the main view of
the arena’s all-glass facade; several Montreal Canadiens players
were stunned to learn during the playoffs last spring that the
church won’t be demolished.
The Consol Energy Center was long in the making, requiring
years’ worth of arm-twisting by Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle,
and the effort finally succeeded after the Penguins drafted Crosby
following the NHL shutdown in 2004-05 and attendance returned to
1990s-like levels. After feigning moves to Kansas City and Las
Vegas, the Penguins successfully negotiated an arena agreement with
state, county and city officials.
It doesn’t have a nickname yet but, given that proceeds from
Pittsburgh’s year-old, slot machine-filled casino are footing much
of the bill, perhaps it should be known as The Slot.
Since the arena was the last of the new wave of NHL arenas to be
built, the Penguins incorporated many good touches, and avoided
some of the bad, from the league’s other new buildings. The
concourses are wide and open, so fans standing in line for
concessions can watch the game.
Even if a fan’s view is blocked temporarily, there are 800 TV
sets in every possible nook and cranny of the $321 million
structure, which has an exterior that features the walled glass
front and tons of tan-colored bricks.
The seats are mostly black, with a few rows of gold inserted to
add a dash of color. The players area is so expansive, coach Dan
Bylsma asked that the weight room be made less fancy so it reminds
players they’re in a work area and not a spa.
Visiting players who grumbled for years about the Civic Arena’s
tiny dressing room, where each player’s area was designated by a
hook in the wall, will rejoice at the much more expansive room at
What kind of hockey arena will it be? Even the Penguins aren’t
certain yet, though they quickly learned during the preseason that
the boards are much livelier than those at the Civic Arena, which
was known as Mellon Arena for 10 years until reverting to its
original name this summer after a naming rights agreement
”Some of the hesitation about it being so nice and so luxurious
has gone away, but it won’t completely go away until we win some
games there,” coach Dan Bylsma said. ”I love the energy in the
building so far. But winning games and making this a home-ice
advantage and having teams not want to play here, we still have to
The Penguins themselves have a different look since they failed
to reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in three seasons
last spring. They brought in expensive new defenseman Paul Martin
and Zbynek Michalek after defenseman Sergei Gonchar signed with
Ottawa, and forward Bill Guerin wasn’t brought back. They also
added valuable role-player forwards Mike Comrie and Arron Asham;
Comrie, for now, replaces the injured Jordan Staal on the second
line. Malkin previously centered that line but is shifting to a
Staal, arguably the NHL’s best No. 3 center during his four-year
career, still hasn’t recovered from an infection in his right foot
that developed after a tendon was cut during the Montreal series.
He isn’t expected back until November at the earliest.
The new building will be waiting when he does return.