PITTSBURGH -- The guys from The Ultimate Sports Road Trip arranged a tour today of the Consol Energy Center with longtime Penguins vice president Tom McMillan (who, by the way, was the team's beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette during its 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup runs). They invited me to tag along and it was a tremendous 45 minutes. The NHL's newest building cost $321 million to build and it's simply spectacular.
Among so many neat facts I learned are these: There are 66 suites because, of course, 66 was Mario Lemieux's number. The capacity is 18,087 because, of course, 87 is for Sidney Crosby. The Penguins loved features in the buildings in Minnesota, Columbus and Phoenix and used several here. I can vouch for Minnesota's open upper concourse being a hit that the Pens did even better.
All the seats are black and there are a few rows of gold thrown in. It creates a neat wave effect and, as McMillan pointed out, "When it's empty, you know it's a Pittsburgh arena." The Penguins had a lot of pressure on them, he noted, because the new facilities of the Pirates and Steelers are very well received by fans. This one is no different.
There are amazing interactive displays in the concourse highlighting the team's history and a fascinating mural of the faces of Lemieux made up of small pictures of fans who donated to his foundation. Suite 66 on the ice level allows select fans to see the team coming on and off the ice behind a glass wall. Lemieux's personal trophies are housed in the room (left). The upper concourse -- not a premium area -- is a huge glass wall facing the skyline that fans from all over the building come to visit. The architecture, including plenty of open beams in the bowl and concourses, is a tribute to Pittsburgh's industrial past.
Giant electronic boards in the lobby face the glass wall outside and fans can view information on them. When the Penguins score a goal, they all turn red. So if you're driving by, you know something good happened. Neat touch.
The 70,000-pound scoreboard is a behemoth. The video section alone is bigger than the whole Mellon Arena board, which dated to 1996. I could go on and on. I have yet to get to the press box and I'll take a shot up there. But I created a Flickr stream for all of this you can check out by clicking here. Each picture has some description on it. Be sure to check it out.
The Penguins have about 15,000 season tickets and hold back 3,000 for individual sales. Tonight is their 199th straight sellout. It's a tough, tough ticket. But if you get your hands on one, it's worth the trip. The place is terrific.
Back to work. I'll see you again around faceoff.
taggedNHL | Sabres