Civic Arena (formerly the Civic Auditorium and Mellon Arena, nicknamed The Igloo) is a covered arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Constructed in 1961, for use by the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO), the Civic Arena hosted numerous concerts, as well as hockey, basketball, tennis, boxing, wrestling and soccer matches. It primarily served as the home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city's National Hockey League (NHL) franchise. The arena was the world's first major indoor sports stadium with a retractable roof. It was formerly named for Mellon Financial, which purchased the naming rights in 1999. Naming rights expired on August 1, 2010 and the arena once again is known as the Civic Arena. The Civic Arena closed on June 26, 2010. The former Mellon naming rights expired soon after, and the Penguins and all other events moved across the street to the new Consol Energy Center. The arena's owner, the Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, initially voted in September 2010 to demolish the building in 2011. However, in November 2010, the arena was nominated for historic status at the last minute, and demolition has been delayed. A final vote by the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission on the nomination was held on March 2, 2011. The result was the HRC declining the arena for historic status.
Construction and design
The US$22 million ($162 million in 2011 dollars ) arena was built for the CLO in 1961. Funding was provided by a combination of public and private money, including grants from Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh, and Edgar J. Kaufmann owner of Kaufmann's department store. The arena's design incorporated 2,950 tons of stainless steel from Pittsburgh. The Arena was designed for the CLO, which previously held productions at Pitt Stadium. The roof, which is supported by a 260-foot (79 m) arch, is free of internal support leaving no obstruction for the seats within. The roof, which has a diameter of 415 feet (126 m), is divided into eight sections. Six of the sections could fold underneath two"in 2½ minutes"making the Civic Arena the world's first major indoor sports stadium with a retractable roof. The stadium's capacity fluctuates depending on the event being hosted, but has increased due to additions between 1972 and 1991. The arena originally consisted only of lower bowl seating, but over time, upper decks were installed in the arena's "end zones" to increase capacity. In December 1999, Mellon Financial purchased the Arena's naming rights in a 10 year, $18 million agreement, which renamed the arena Mellon Arena.
History and events
On September 19, 1961, the Ice Capades hosted the arena's first event. Sporting events including roller hockey, boxing matches including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson as well as Roller Derby featuring the hosting New York Chiefs took place at the Arena. America's first high school basketball All-Star game, The Dapper Dan Roundball Classic was held there annually between 1965 and 1992. The University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, Pittsburgh Pipers, Pittsburgh Condors, and the Harlem Globetrotters hosted basketball games at the Arena. World TeamTennis and the Pittsburgh Spirit Major Indoor Soccer League team also hosted matches at the Arena. The 1983 United States Figure Skating Championships and first and second round games of the 1997 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament were held at the Arena. World Wrestling Entertainment has frequently been to the Arena over the years. WWE Raw and WWE SmackDown have taken place there. Six pay-per-views have also taken place at the Mellon Arena: SummerSlam (1995), King of the Ring (1998), WWE Unforgiven in 2001, No Way Out (2005), Armageddon (2007), and the final pay-per-view; WWE Bragging Rights in 2009. The final WWE event was Raw on May 10, 2010. The weigh-in of the 2005 Bassmaster Classic was held here. Elvis Presley played his final New Year's Eve show at the Civic Arena on December 31, 1976. The final event was to be a Maxwell concert on July 10, 2010. However, the show was canceled. On June 8, 2010, the arena's management group, SMG, announced that James Taylor and Carole King's Troubadour Reunion Tour concert stop would be the final event at Mellon Arena on June 26, 2010.
AHL Hornets The Pittsburgh Hornets, members of the American Hockey League (AHL) played home games at the Duquesne Gardens, located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. The team played 20 seasons in the Gardens prior to its demolition, which made room for an apartment building. The Arena opened on September 17, 1961. With the Arena available, the Hornets resumed play in the 1961”“62 season and went on to win the Calder Cup in the 1966”“67 season. Penguins As part of the 1967 NHL expansion, the city of Pittsburgh was selected to host one of six new franchises. With a hockey seating capacity of 12,508, Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena was eight seats over the NHL's minimum seating benchmark. Due to its outward appearance, the Arena was nicknamed "The Igloo" which led to the naming of the Penguins. The Penguins debuted at the Civic Arena on October 11, 1967 in a 2”“1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Andy Bathgate scored the Penguins's first goal in the arena. The Penguins won their first game at the Arena on October 21, when they became the first expansion team to beat an original NHL franchise"besting the Chicago Blackhawks 4”“2. On January 21, 1990, the Civic Arena hosted the 41st National Hockey League All-Star Game. Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux scored three goals on his first three shots"the first coming 21 seconds into the game. He later scored a fourth goal and was named the game's Most Valuable Player. The arena also hosted the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, as well as games of the 1991, 1992, 2008, and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. The 2008 Finals marked the only occasion that the Stanley Cup was presented on Mellon Arena ice, after the Penguins were defeated by the Detroit Red Wings in six games. The Pittsburgh Penguins played their last game in Mellon Arena on May 12, 2010; a 5”“2 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens to eliminate them from the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This means the Canadiens both opened and closed the Penguins' career at the arena, handing out defeats at both events.
NCAA Tournaments The Civic Arena hosted the first and second round regional games of the NCAA Men's Tournament. The arena's successor Consol Energy Center is scheduled to host them in 2012. It also hosted the women's first and second round games in 2001. Eastern Eight Championships For five seasons the arena hosted the Eastern 8 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament every March. From 1978 to 1982 many of the current Big East Conference powers Atlantic 10 powers fought for their conference crown at the center. For the final season, the Mellon Arena hosted a record crowd of 16,056, the third-largest conference basketball championship crowd in the nation that year. NBA Regular Season Games Between 1964 and 1973 the arena hosted 14 regular season NBA games. Primarily as a satellite city for the Philadelphia 76ers. On February 24, 1967 Wilt Chamberlain set the all-time record for consecutive NBA field goals and field goal percentage, a record that still stands, at the Civic Arena. The Arena also hosted dozens of pre-season NBA contests from the 1960s until 2009. ABA Pipers and Condors The arena was the home court for the ABA Pittsburgh Pipers from 1967 to 1968 and the Pittsburgh Condors from 1970 to 1972. The Pipers won the first ever ABA Finals, thus becoming the first team ever to win a pro basketball championship game that featured the dunk and three point shot"ABA innovations.
In 1957, before the arena was opened, the under-construction building was officially known as the Civic Auditorium Amphitheater. By 1961, when it opened, Pittsburgh sign makers had decided that Civic Arena fit better on street signs, and the new, shorter name stuck. Still though, for the few years after it opened, it was sometimes referred to as the Civic Auditorium. In the early days, The Pittsburgh Dome was also popular name choice, but nothing came of it. In April 1988, city Councilman Mark Pollock proposed renaming it the Richard S. Caliguiri Arena, after the city's popular mayor who was diagnosed with amyloidosis. Caliguiri died a month later, and nothing came of this name, either. Allegheny County Commissioner Pete Flaherty believed that officially renaming the arena The Igloo would bring marketing potential in 1992. Again, the Civic Arena name stayed. In 1997, the Penguins sold naming rights to Allegheny Energy for $5 million, which would've renamed the arena Allegheny Energy Dome. However, the Penguins did not own the building nor its naming rights - the Sports Commission of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County did, and the deal fell through. But, by 1999, this had changed. When Mario Lemieux bought the Penguins out of bankruptcy, the naming rights were also rewarded to him. They then sold the rights to Mellon Financial for $18 million, and the arena was finally renamed Mellon Arena. The Mellon Arena name was let to expire on August 1, 2010, with the building now vacant and the Penguins moving to the new Consol Energy Center across the street. The closed building officially became the Civic Arena again.
Replacement and demolition
At its closing in 2010, the Civic Arena was the oldest and third smallest arena in the NHL by official capacity (the Islanders and Oilers arenas seat fewer). In later years, the arena's staff was forced to use space for multiple purposes never intended in the building's original design. The Penguins franchise agreed to a deal with city and state officials to fund a new home arena for the franchise in March 2007. The Consol Energy Center is located across the street from the site of Mellon Arena and has a higher seating capacity. The Penguins played their first game at Consol Energy Center October 7, 2010. On September 16, 2010 The Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) voted to demolish the Civic Arena, with no discussion. The vote by the seven-member board was unanimous. Board chairman Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, said the board's decision doesn't have to be final " if someone comes forward with a better idea. During the first of seven meetings intended to collect and evaluate ideas for developing the 28-acre (110,000 m 2) site, the demolition of the arena was stated as just being "one option", according to a SEA spokesman. Historic preservationists want to reuse the building, as a possible park and retail center. However the Penguins want to demolish it and find a developer to create a residential and retail district on the site. Penguins executives have said removing the arena would free up land near the Downtown business district. On January 20, 2010, SEA, the Arena's owner, declined to speculate whether the Penguins could challenge it in court if it decided to reuse the arena instead of demolishing it. SEA stated that if the structure was to be reused, it would be set up in a way that would benefit the redevelopment of the area. A March 2007 agreement between the SEA and the Penguins states that Civic Arena would be demolished after completion of Consol Energy Center, in July 2010. However, SEA is currently conducting a historic assessment of the arena. It is currently eligible to appear on the National Register of Historic Places mainly because of its unique, retractable dome. A private consultant to SEA was hired to conduct the survey. The consultant is to follow the 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. The recommendations of the consultant to SEA were scheduled to be delivered in June 2010. On September 16, 2010, the Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority voted unanimously to demolish the Civic Arena. However SEA Board chairman, State Senator Wayne Fontana, D- Brookline, said the board's decision will not be final, unless someone comes forward with a better idea on the use of the Arena. Over the next few months, workers will remove asbestos from the building while a demolition plan is designed. The Board will sell assets from inside and likely award a demolition contract in February 2011. Proponents for retaining the building have vowed to fight the demolition decision in court, and continue to seek landmark status. On November 24, 2010, the building's demolition was delayed due to a last-minute nomination as a National Historic Landmark. Also, on January 5, 2011, the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission voted 5-1 in favor for preliminary approval of the arena's historic nomination status. The vote paved the way for a formal hearing on the proposed designation on March 2. The HRC ultimately voted against landmark status on March 2. However, the proposed designation must still go through the City Planning Commission and City Council. Even with its future still pending, seats and various other fixtures from the arena have been put up for sale.
Use as a filming location
Civic Arena has served as a filming location for several major Hollywood productions including:
- The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh , a 1979 basketball film starring Flip Wilson, Stockard Channing, and Julius Erving as members of the fictional Pittsburgh Pisces NBA team.
- Sudden Death , a 1995 film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as a retired Pittsburgh firefighter who tries to save the Vice President from terrorists during the pivotal Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
- Rock Star , a 2001 film starring Mark Wahlberg as a musician heading to the Pittsburgh arena for a concert in 1987.
- Zach and Miri Make a Porno , a 2008 Kevin Smith film; one of the final scenes is shot outside the arena.
- She's Out of My League , a 2010 romantic comedy; the arena and the Pittsburgh Penguins are featured as the backdrop to a date night.