Thursday afternoon, the Penguins finally took the first significant step in constructing the new arena that they will call home for at least the next 30 years.
CEO Ken Sawyer, Team President David Morehouse, and owner Mario Lemieux of the Penguins' organization were joined by Pennsylvania's Governor Ed Rendell (who pretended to be remotely concerned about the western half of the state for a day), County Executive Dan Onorato, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl as a ground breaking ceremony took place at the site of the new arena, which is scheduled to open before the 2010-11 NHL season begins.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place at what was determined to be the future site of center ice of the Pens' new rink. The total size of the arena site encompasses about eight acres, and the arena is expected to stand six levels high, occupying somewhere in the ballpark of 720,000 square feet, a size that is 300,000 square feet larger than Mellon Arena.
Seating capacity in the Penguins' new arena will be 18,087, approximately 1,100 more than Mellon Arena.
The new arena is currently awaiting to receive LEED Certification, which would classify it as an energy efficient building.
Perhaps no one was as relieved to finally break ground as Penguins' owner, Mario Lemieux was this afternoon. Lemieux told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that leaving Pittsburgh was never an option.
"We had to do a few things to put pressure on the city and the state, but our goal was to remain here in Pittsburgh all the way. Those trips to Kansas City and Vegas and other cities was just to go, and have a nice dinner and come back" Lemieux said.
Governor Rendell stressed that the arena deal would never have been completed without the expansion of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania. "Let the record show that we wouldn't be here today without expanded gaming," Rendell said. "Without that money, we're not here today; it's as simple as that."
Rendell went on to say "Philadelphia should still be the nation's capital. Roads and bridges, roads and bridges... Let's Go Flyers."
All that's left to do now is check up on the construction site's cam to watch the new arena take shape, and wait patiently for its' opening in 2010.