Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Mellon Arena

Construction of Pittsburgh's new arena is set to begin sometime this summer. I realize it needs to be replaced, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the Mellon Arena, though it was still called the Civic Arena when I first visited it for my very first rock concert when I was 12 years old.

This photo was taken by Matt Robinson, the same guy that took those amazing pictures of the Stanley Cup I told you about a few weeks ago. He's taken some stunning shots of the city of Pittsburgh, too.

I know the new arena won't be ready for at least 2 years, but I'm already getting nostalgic - I've been searching the Internet and snatching up good photos of the Igloo to use as wallpapers and screensavers, and I found some really great ones that I wanted to share with you. (A few of the following shots are ones I've taken over the years, too.)

It was still known as the Civic Arena when my husband got me into hockey when we first began dating 11 years ago. The name was changed in 1999 when the Pens signed an $18 million 10 year contract with Mellon Financial.

Construction of the arena was completed in 1961. It got its name when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began referring to the unnamed building as the Civic Arena. The building has a prominent unique feature - a retractable domed roof (from Ballparks.com):
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.

It was originally built for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, but the accoustics were subpar (especially when the roof was opened) so the Opera group only performed in the building for a few years. The first hockey team to utilize the building was the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets. They won the Calder Cup in their last season at the arena in 1967, just a few months before the Pittsburgh Penguins moved in.

This is a screenshot I grabbed using Google Earth. (Click to enlarge.)

After a series of additions, seating capacity grew from around 12,000 to its present 17,132 (standing room). Because of the additions, however, some of the lower level seats at each end are listed as "obstructed view seating." Tickets for these sections are less expensive, but television monitors installed in the overhanging structures are needed to help the fans in these seats see all the action. My husband and I sat in these seats for our first Stanley Cup playoff game ever (Round 1 Game 3 in the 2007 series against Ottawa). They definitely aren't ideal, but beggars can't be choosy, right?

The arena has 56 luxury suites and 1,696 club seats. I've been privileged enough to be a guest in one luxury suite in particular several times over the past decade because the company my husband works for owns it. (My apologies for the poor quality of these next two photos - they are scans from pictures taken in February 2000 with an old [*GASP*] film camera. They are the only good pictures I've got of the inside of the box because when I'm up there, I've pretty much always got my camera pointed down towards the ice.)

This is my big sister!

And this is me at 22 years old and in desperate need of a root touch-up. Haha, look at me making myself at home!

The view from the suite is incredible. We were in the suite when Sid scored the famous goal on his stomach against the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 7, 2007. I captured that goal on video using my old digital camera, which only recorded silent clips. Nevertheless, it is one of my most cherished video clips. I don't know why, but somehow in my gut I just felt like something special was about to happen, so I started recording and this is what I got (take a Dramamine - it gets shaky right after the goal because I and the rest of the fans in the arena erupted into thunderous cheers - also, you may need to let the entire video load before playing it because if you don't, you'll see the goal but you'll miss Sid flying down the ice and then dropping to his belly):

Here is a photo I took of the national anthem from that game:

This is a zoomed in shot, but you can still tell that we're pretty high up there.

For those of you who have never been to the Mellon Arena, the following shot is the most accurate photographic depiction of what it is like inside the Igloo that I've ever seen:

This photo is actually a series of 6 photos stitched together using Photomerge in Photoshop CS3. The artist, DMcGrew, took the original 6 pictures in section E28. Click the photo to go to his Flickr album and get this image in wallpaper size. (Click the All Sizes button in the upper left corner of the picture, then choose to download the Original size for best use as a wallpaper.)

This photo is another work by DMcGrew. This time he used only 4 photos. Click the photo for more sizes.

While I eagerly look forward to the upgrades (like having cup holders in the armrests, LOL) in the new arena, I'll also be a little bit sad when the Mellon goes out of service. I'll leave you today with the rest of my favorite pictures of the Mellon Arena. First, here are the interior shots:

And here are some more great exterior shots:


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