The big news in Pittsburgh this week was the groundbreaking ceremony for the new multi-purpose arena that will become the new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010. The groundbreaking ceremony took place at the new arena’s center-ice location on 14 Aug 08. The arena, which will replace the aging Mellon Arena, is being built across the street from the NHL’s oldest venue between Centre and Fifth avenues. Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh Penguins Owner Mario Lemieux, Chief Executive Officer Ken Sawyer, and Team President David Morehouse were among the officials on hand for the ceremony.
The new $290M arena will seat 18,087 hockey fans, approximately 1,100 more than Mellon Arena and will include a 500-car parking garage, surface parking lot and event staging area. The new arena is scheduled to be complete just in time for the start of the 2010-11 season. While one could argue that it will be “the house that Sid built”, the Penguins were long overdue for a new arena. Nonetheless, the hockey renaissance being experienced in Pittsburgh right now with all of the youth and talent has certainly helped seal the deal to get the new arena started.
In a surprise statement at the groundbreaking ceremony, Mario Lemieux admitted that the ownership never intended to follow-through on their threats to move the franchise out of Pittsburgh if the arena funding didn’t materialize. Instead, Lemieux noted that the threat was a a negotiating tactic to put more pressure on the city officials, and that the trips to Las Vegas, Kansas City were “just to go, and have a nice dinner and come back.” The tactic worked, as it motivated the Governor and the Mayor to get the deal done. Governor Rendell stated that the project would not have happened without the financial revenues from legalized gambling, which are expected to pay a large portion of the costs, including $7.5 million a year for 30 years.
Mario Lemieux also put aside speculation that he would sell his majority share in the team ownership in the near future, saying “As long as the ownership group is having fun and putting a good product on the ice, I’ll be here for a while.” A good product indeed! The ownership group has also benefitted from a franchise record 67 consecutive home sellouts and a 99% season ticket renewal for the upcoming season. Ken Sawyer noted that a statue of Lemieux will be erected in his honor at the Plaza entrance of the new arena, reflecting all that he has done for Penguins hockey.
Some goodies on the new Arena can be found at the New Arena Website, to include: