Pittsburgh Civic Arena
Pittsburgh, PA ~
January 18, 2009

Affectionately known as the Igloo, the Pittsburgh Civic Arena is one of my favorite sporting venues. Simply, it looks like nothing else and has tons of character. It was built between 1957 and 1961 to be the home of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. The Pittsburgh Penguins moved in to play hockey in 1967 (the minor league Hornets played here since 1961), and will move out at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 season. The Penguins will bring their three Stanley Cup banners to a new arena currently under construction across the street.

The main attraction of the Igloo was that its roof could be opened for performances under the stars. Now that the outdoor Winter Classic game has become a hit for the NHL, they're losing their only rink where a game could have been played outdoors without any special set-up. I'm told the roof was last opened for a movie filmed in the early-mid 1990s. What originally took minutes to close the roof took about 4 days, I have been told, due to lack of use of the operating machinery. A new hanging scoreboard makes it difficult if not impossible to open the roof at all anymore. This great photo (offsite link) shows the building with the roof open and with its original seating arrangement. (More early history of the arena and photos can be found here.)

Originally the arena only had seating in one level, but now end zone decks hang over the lower bowl.
The two recent times I've been here I've sat along the sides at the top of the lower bowl, and in the last row of the upper deck behind the goal. Both seats had great views of the ice. Being way up top was actually pretty cool, and offered  a great vantage point for watching plays develop. The seats were a bit cramped, which made for stowing my camera bag and handling my food a bit difficult, but I'd put up with that to see a game in this rink anyway. 

Most fans don't care for the history, architecture and quirks of the Civic Arena and can't wait for the new rink to open. I've been to many of the new rinks and they are all boring and all look the same, inside and out. I'll miss the Igloo. As I was walking around snapping photos of every inch of the building, a friendly  usher noticed and invited me up to the luxury box level for the real birds eye view. At least I know that someone else appreciates the Igloo. Some preservationists consider the arena a great piece of modernist architecture and propose plans to save the building. The Penguins would rather it be demolished so that the land can be turned into a parking lot for the new rink and make space for commercial/residential development.

The movable roof panels were designed to be retracted around the building
 to sit under the panel under these steel beams.

Here we can see the top-center of the dome and how there is space
for the panels to slide above/below each other.

More Pittsburgh Civic Arena photos - page 2


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