Civic Arena (Pittsburgh)

Civic Arena (Pittsburgh)
Pittsburgh Civic Arena
The Igloo
The House That Lemieux Built [1][2]
Former names Civic Auditorium, Mellon Arena
Location 66 Mario Lemieux Place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15219-3504
Coordinates 40°26′30″N 79°59′24″W / 40.44167°N 79.99°W / 40.44167; -79.99Coordinates: 40°26′30″N 79°59′24″W / 40.44167°N 79.99°W / 40.44167; -79.99
Broke ground March 12, 1958
Built 1958-1961
Opened September 17, 1961
Renovated Summer 1986 ($19.5 million)
Summer 1993[3]
Closed June 26, 2010
Demolished September 26, 2011–ongoing
Owner Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County
Operator SMG
Surface Ice
Construction cost US$22 million
($162 million in 2011 dollars[4])
Architect Mitchell and Ritchey

Ice hockey: 16,940
Hockey SRO: 17,132
Basketball: 17,537

  • End Stage 12,800
  • Center Stage 18,039
Field dimensions 250 x 120 ft[5]
Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL) (1967–2010)
Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (1961–1969)
Roundball Classic (1965–1992)
Duquesne University Men's Basketball (1965-1987)
Pittsburgh Rens (ABL) (1961–1963)
Pittsburgh Hornets (AHL) (1961–1967)
Pittsburgh Pipers/Condors (ABA) (1967–1973)
Pittsburgh Triangles (WTT) (1974–1976)
Pittsburgh Spirit (MISL) (1978–1986)
Pittsburgh Gladiators (AFL) (1987–1990)
Pittsburgh Bulls (MILL) (1990–1993)
Pittsburgh Phantoms (RHI) (1994)
Pittsburgh Stingers (CISL) (1994–1995)
Pittsburgh Piranhas (CBA) (1994–1995)
Pittsburgh CrosseFire (NLL) (2000)
Pittsburgh Xplosion (CBA) (2005–2008)

Civic Arena (formerly the Civic Auditorium and Mellon Arena, nicknamed The Igloo) is an indoor arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that is currently undergoing demolition. It was the first retractable roof major sports venue in the world, covering 170,000 sq. feet and constructed with just shy of 3,000 tons of Pittsburgh steel. It boasts the largest retractable, stainless steel dome roof in the world supported only by a massive 260 foot long cantilevered arm on the exterior.[6]

Constructed in 1961, for use by the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO), the Civic Arena hosted numerous concerts, the circus, political and religious rallies, roller derbies as well as contests in hockey, basketball, fish tournament weigh-ins, tennis, boxing, wrestling, lacrosse, football, ice skating championships, kennel shows, and soccer. The structure has been used as the backdrop for several major Hollywood films.

It primarily served as the home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city's National Hockey League (NHL) franchise.[7]

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.[8]

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 was 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. After votes from City Planning and City Council also declined historic status, a federal lawsuit was filed by those who wish to save the arena in order to prevent its demolition. The 3rd appeals court denied the lawsuit and demolition began Monday, September 26th.


Construction and design

The Civic Arena during a Penguins game in 2008

The US$22 million ($162 million in 2011 dollars[4]) arena was built for the CLO in 1961.[9] 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.[7] The arena's design incorporated 2,950 tons of stainless steel from Pittsburgh.[9] 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.[10] A total of 42 trucks mounted on 78 wheels, 30 of which are individually driven, support and move the six moveable sections. The trucks, gear motors and 480-volt AC motor drive that moves the roof sections were designed and manufactured by Heyl & Patterson Inc., a local specialist engineering firm.[11] The stadium's capacity fluctuates depending on the event being hosted, but has increased due to additions between 1972 and 1991.[10] 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.[12]

History and events

On September 17, 1961, the Ice Capades hosted the arena's first event.

Major political rallies were part of the early history of the arena with the most attended being the campaign address by Lyndon B. Johnson on October 27, 1964.

Sporting events including roller hockey, boxing matches including Muhammad Ali (Knockout on January 24, 1963), 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.[13] The University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University,[14] Philadelphia 76ers, Pittsburgh Pipers, Pittsburgh Condors, Pittsburgh Rens, Pittsburgh Piranhas, and the Harlem Globetrotters hosted regular-season basketball games at the Arena. World TeamTennis and the Pittsburgh Spirit Major Indoor Soccer League team also hosted matches at the Arena.[7][15] The 1983 United States Figure Skating Championships and first and second round games of both the 1997 and 2002 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournaments were held at the Arena.[12] 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), Unforgiven (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 at the arena being globally televised by both ESPN and ESPN2.

Elvis Presley played his final New Year's Eve show at the Civic Arena on December 31, 1976, and played to a sellout on June 25, 1973. The Beatles had their lone Pittsburgh concert to a sellout crowd at the arena on September 14, 1964. The arena has hosted other major concerts by every act from Frank Sinatra to Garth Brooks to Jimmy Page/Robert Plant.

The Doors recorded their May 2, 1970 concert at the Civic Arena. This would be released 38 years later as "Live in Pittsburgh 1970" aka "Pittsburgh Civic Arena (The Doors album)". It is considered by most music critics to be The Doors very best live recording.

The Grateful Dead's performances, on April 2-3, 1989, were recorded and later released as a live album, entitled, Download Series Volume 9, as well as sparking a riot by "Dead Heads" on the final day of the concert, an event that was national news and featured by Kurt Loder on MTV News following the arrest of 500 by the Pittsburgh Police.

The World Heavyweight Title was fought at the arena on November 6, 1981 between Larry Holmes and Renaldo Snipes.

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.


"It was beautiful, I can remember because the roof was round and white and pristine. It was like playing in a cloud. Imagine, it's almost like you're playing in the Vatican. It was very unique."

Gene Ubriaco, former Forward with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Pittsburgh Hornets, recalling his playing days at the Arena[16]

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.[17] The Arena opened on September 17, 1961.[17] 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.[17]


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.[10] Due to its outward appearance, the Arena was nicknamed "The Igloo" which led to the naming of the Penguins.[18] 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. It was the first NHL game played between an expansion team and an "Original Six" team. 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.[19] 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.[20] The arena also hosted the 1997 NHL Entry Draft,[21] as well as games of the 1991, 1992, 2008, and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.[7] 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 Penguins originally planned to wear a jersey patch to commemorate their final season in the Igloo, but it was later scrapped.[22]

The Pittsburgh Penguins played their final regular season game at the Mellon Arena on April 8, 2010 when they defeated the New York Islanders 7-3. More than 50 former Penguins were in attendance for a pre-game ceremony and "team picture."[23]

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.

Panoramic view of the Civic Arena from D-Level in October 2007. The balconies on either end of this photo were not part of the original structure. The lower E-level balcony was added in 1975 and the upper F-level balcony was added in 1993 season to extend seating capacity.


NCAA Tournaments

The Civic Arena hosted the first and second round regional games of both the 1997 and 2002 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.[24]

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 at the arena, Wilt Chamberlain set the all-time record for consecutive NBA field goals as well as single NBA game field goal percentage, a record that still stands. 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 Pittsburgh Pipers were part of the inaugural season of the American Basketball Association in 1967-68, which quickly became equals and rivals to the older National Basketball Association. The Pipers, led by future Hall of Famer Connie Hawkins, would win the ABA's first ever championship over the New Orleans Buccaneers before a sold out crowd for Game 7 in the Civic Arena on May 4, 1968.


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.[25]

Replacement, debate, 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.[26] 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.[7] The Penguins played their first game at Consol Energy Center October 7, 2010.[27]

The Penguins 3 Stanley Cup Championship Banners displayed at the Arena in 2009-10

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.[28] During the first of seven meetings intended to collect and evaluate ideas for developing the 28-acre (110,000 m2) 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.[29]

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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32] The HRC ultimately voted against landmark status on March 2. After also failing to get historic status approval from City Planning and City Council, Preservation Pittsburgh filed a federal lawsuit in an another attempt to save the arena. The 3rd appeals court denied the lawsuit saying it had no jurisdiction in the matter, and demolition began Monday, September 26th 2011. The demolition is not a traditional type of demolition for sports arenas. The arena is being disassembled over time, and is expected to be complete in May of 2012.[33]

Use as a filming location

Civic Arena has served as a filming location for several major Hollywood productions including:


  1. ^
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d e Pittsburgh Penguins 2008.09 Media Guide. Pittsburgh Penguins. p. 7. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  8. ^ Belko, Mark (June 24, 2010). "Arena will lose Mellon name in August". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b O'Brien 1994, p. 310
  10. ^ a b c Cooper 1994, p. 323
  11. ^ Moveable Civic Arena Roof Rolls on Wheels Designed by Heyl & Patterson
  12. ^ a b "Arena History". Arena Info. Mellon Arena – Official site. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 
  13. ^ IT'S A BASKETBALL TOWN. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) – Friday, March 14, 1997. MARINO PARASCENZO
  14. ^ Fittipaldo, Ray (2 September 2009). "Duquesne, Pitt will return to Mellon Arena for City Game". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 3 September 2009. 
  15. ^ O'Brien 1994, pp. 312–3
  16. ^ Gorman, Kevin. "Mellon Arena stirs plenty of fond memories". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  17. ^ a b c Cooper 1994, p. 322
  18. ^ Cooper 1994, p. 324
  19. ^ Cooper 1994, pp. 325–6
  20. ^ Martin, Lawrence (1993). Mario. Toronto: Lester Publishing. p. 186. ISBN 1895555450. 
  21. ^ "NHL Draft History". NHL Entry Draft. Retrieved 6 January 2009. 
  22. ^ "Mellon Arena nostalgia kept in check". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 15 January 2010. 
  23. ^ "More Than 50 Former Penguins To Return Thursday To Celebrate Final Regular Season Game At Mellon Arena". 5 April 2010. 
  24. ^ "Smizik: Eastern Eight tournament was special event". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 5, 2007. 
  25. ^ Inside the Igloo, by the staff of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  26. ^ Dvorchak, Robert (April 23, 2009). "Old Mellon Arena functional despite lack of amenities". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 
  27. ^ Gus Rosendale (2007-11-13). Sketches Of Pittsburgh Penguins' New Arena (Television production). Pittsburgh: KDKA-TV. Event occurs at 0:13. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  28. ^ Conte, Andrew (September 17, 2010). "Sports & Exhibition Authority OKs Civic Arena razing". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved October 12, 2010. 
  29. ^ Boren, Jeremy (January 20, 2010). "Raze or reuse? Igloo's fate studied". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved January 20, 2010. 
  30. ^ Conte, Andrew (September 16, 2010). "SEA votes unanimously to level Civic Arena". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved September 16, 2010. 
  31. ^ Belko, Mark (November 24, 2010). "Civic Arena spared demolition for now". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  32. ^ Belko, Mark (January 6, 2011). "Historic panel gives a reprieve to Igloo". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  33. ^ Group's lawsuit seeks to save Civic Arena TribLive

Further reading

External links

Events and tenants
Preceded by
Franchise created
Home of the
Pittsburgh Penguins

Succeeded by
Consol Energy Center
Preceded by
Duquesne Gardens
Home of the
Pittsburgh Hornets

Succeeded by
Franchise disbanded
Preceded by
Fitzgerald Field House
Home of
Duquesne University Men's Basketball

Succeeded by
Palumbo Center
Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
Pittsburgh Gladiators

Succeeded by
(Tampa Bay Storm)
Preceded by
Inaugural Event
Host of ArenaBowl
Succeeded by
Allstate Arena
Preceded by
Northlands Coliseum
Host of NHL All-Star Game
Succeeded by
Chicago Stadium
Preceded by
Charlotte Coliseum
Host of Bassmaster Classic
Succeeded by
Silver Spurs Arena
Preceded by
Colonial Life Arena
Host of Forrest Wood Cup
Succeeded by
Arena at Gwinnett Center
Preceded by
Host of WWE Bragging Rights
Succeeded by
Target Center

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