Pittsburgh Penguins: Sweet Home, Mellon Arena

WoooooSenior Writer IJuly 14, 2008

Mellon Arena is a structure that Penguins' fans have forever held near and dear to their collective heart.

It has been the only home the Penguins have ever known. Now, with the Penguins on the verge (at least we hope so) of moving into a new arena within the next few years, Mellon Arena will soon become a relic in the hockey history books.

This is the history of the place we endearingly refer to as the Igloo...

When it first opened in 1961, the Civic Arena served as home to the Civic Light Opera—a vast contrast to such performers as the Rolling Stones, KISS, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and the Grateful Dead, who would all eventually grace the stage at the Igloo during its 47-year existence.

The Civic Arena, a name which is still commonly used by lifelong Penguins fans and Pittsburghers, is most famous for its revolutionary architectural design. The arenas' retractable, stainless steel roof is the largest in the world-- composed of 170,000 square feet and 2,950 tons of pure Pittsburgh steel.

The roof has no interior supports, but is supported by a huge cantilever arm that arches 260 feet.

The arena was featured in the 1995 film "Sudden Death" starring Jean Claude Van Damme, which marked the last time the retractable roof was opened. The retractable dome is designed to open or close in less than two minutes. However, the weight of the new Jumbotron made opening the roof a task that became too time-consuming to consider.

In the fall of 1967, the Civic Arena became home to the NHL's newest team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Though the Penguins won both of their Stanley Cups on the opposition's home ice, the Mellon Arena ice was graced by the presence of Lord Stanley's Chalice for the first time during the 2008 playoffs.

In 1999, the Penguins signed a 10-year agreement to rename the Civic Arena Mellon Arena, after the Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank.

The original capacity of Civic Arena was a mere 10,500, but numerous renovations over the past three decades have since increased the Igloo's capacity to over 17,000. Penguins fans are familiar with PA announcer John Barbaro's announcement: "Tonight's attendance, 17,132, a complete, standing-room-only sellout."

While the Mellon Arena is the oldest and smallest arena in the modern day NHL, it has been called home by such hockey legends as Jean Pronovost, Rick Kehoe, Syl Apps, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Kevin Stevens, Rob Brown, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, "Badger" Bob Johnson, Eddie Johnston, and Scotty Bowman.

One look to the rafters displaying the retired jerseys of Michel Briere and Mario Lemieux, coupled with a quick glance at the "Penguins Ring of Honor," reminds fans of the rich hockey history that has been an essential part of the city of Pittsburgh over the past four decades.

While the Penguins may move to a new home in the near future, the Igloo will forever be remembered, cherished, and regarded with the highest respect by all who have attended a Penguins game beneath its dome, and all who have donned the black and gold of the flightless birds in the Steel City.

Let's Go Pens.