For years, the Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed the increasingly rare advantage of playing at home in an old arena. Rather than playing in a sterile*, impersonal new megadome the team played in crusty old Mellon Arena. As you may know, starting next season, that will change as the Penguins open the arena that Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin built: the Consol Energy Center.
* – Of course, judging from recent health code reports about the Verizon Center and other crummy concession stand situations, “sterile” isn’t such a bad description.
The team had video and a story about Lemieux and Crosby being the first two people to ever skate at the soon-to-be-opened palace. Before I get into some of the details from the story, check out the footage.
Two of the more hockey-relevant details regard the pros and cons of having a new building versus an old one.
One of the common issues with having an old barn is that there are some “bad seats” in the house while new arenas typically are designed to shoot down that problem. Lemieux raved about the sight lines in that article.
On the other hand, old arenas are known for having more charm than their fancier, newer counterparts. Both Lemieux and Crosby said that the seats are pretty close to the ice, though.
“We felt that the seats were pretty close to the ice and that should be great for the atmosphere of the building,” Lemieux said. “We thought that it was going to be great for the fans being so close to the ice. And we also talked about how beautiful the building looked.”
Besides how beautiful the arena looked from ice level, and much like Lemieux, Crosby was also blown away by how close the fans are going to be to the action.
“On the ice I just liked looking around at the building,” Crosby said. “It is first class all the way. When you are out there the stands and the suites seem like they are really close to the ice. That intimacy is something that we had at the Mellon, and I think we brought it here.”
For nostalgic fans, it’s always sad to see an old arena go. Even if the seats are cramped, the bathrooms are decrepit and the place is falling apart. Yet, if Crosby and Lemieux are correct, the Consol Energy Center might provide the best of both worlds – the bells and whistles of a profitable new arena plus the intimacy of an older design. We’ll wait and see, because chances are, they’ll get to test drive it in the playoffs soon enough.