Right now, is there a hotter Hockeytown than Pittsburgh, PA? The Penguins are considered, by some, to be the favorites in the East and are riding a 150+ game sell-out streak. The winter classic is being held at Heinz Field this year. The 2013 Frozen Four will come to the Steel City and nearby Penn State finally will get a Division 1 hockey program. To top it all off, is the brand spanking new Consol Energy Center in Downtown Pittsburgh, replacing what was the oldest arena in the league, the Mellon Arena. The SportsTrekker was there on opening night to give us a first hand account of what you can expect at the new igloo.
So how is the Consol Energy Center? What can you expect.
The Consol Energy Center is an incredible, state of the art building that is already generating a lot of buzz around the league for being one of the best facilities in the country. Features of the building include 18,087 seats and around 2,000 club seats (plus 66 luxury suites), a fine-dining restaurant, four different gates to enter the building. Bring in a great HD scoreboard with high-tech instant replay and scores from around the league. There is an average of one concession stand for every 158 people (which eliminates long lines during intermissions). Also located in the concourse is the Highmark Wall of Champions, where the Penguins' involvement in developing local hockey is showcased. With two main levels of seating (in addition to the club seats and suites) the arena bowl is very nice and can accommodate every type of guest, from handicapped, to young and old alike. The architecture of the building is also beautiful, with glass windows along one full side of the arena offering view of 'Dahntohn Picksburg', plus a plaza filled with towering trees surrounding the facility.
What kind of food selection will you find inside this arena? Any local Pittsburgh flavors?
The food in the new arena is really good, however the portions were a little on the light side. If you are visiting Pittsburgh you have to stop at Primantis inside the CEC! Other interesting fare includes kielbasa grinders, we were surprised had arena had higher end food and things like Caesar Salads( Concessions list).
How was the beer selection? Local Beer? How much does it cost?
One of the best varieties of beer options for an arenas we have ever been seen. The craft beer list includes Allegheny Pale Ale, Penn Pilsner and Ole Wylie's IPA. We paid $7.50 for a 20 OZ draft, which didn't break the bank. True Pittsburghers will be happy that IC and IC Light is readily available. Check out the Brew Pub on the upper level.
Does the stadium focus on the city of Pittsburgh? What about the history of the Penguins?
The arena does a great job on meshing its downtown location with the rich tradition of sports in Pittsburgh. The Mario Lemieux mosaic was a must see. The banners from the old arena have made the move across the street to the new building.
How about the comfort of the stadium? Seats, Audio visual?
Seats have plenty of room in the lower bowl, however there have been some complaints about the seating in the upper levels. The seating bowl passes the eye ball test, it's mostly black with some rows gold seats. Audio was fine, but WAY too loud on opening night. Visual was on the best part of the game day experience. The HD Jumbo Tron was sweet, a real upgrade from the Mellon Arena. There are two rows of of LED ribbons around the levels giving fans stats, some ads and a text message board where you can send your messages for all to see, try and keep it classy.
How was the atmosphere inside the arena? How do you think this place will feel during a playoff game? Compare it to the Mellon Arena?
Atmosphere was OK, everyone was just checking out the place, plus it was game 1 of the season. This will be a awesome place for a game when the real fans start showing up. It will take some time like any new arena to figure out how to get going and work out the bugs. The crowd was not nearly as loud as everyone was checking the place out.
How was the Pre-game scene (bars, restaurants)? Are there going to be any new developments (restaurants, bars, etc) around the stadium?
The Super Bowl is a bar that everyone hangs out at, it is a good place for a quick bite and beer. Ace's & Deuce's, Tailgaters Bar & Gril and Steelhead Brasserie & Wine Bar are the nearest places. Perhaps they are planning on building more stuff but their isn't concrete being poured yet. It is right next to Duquense but still not the best party scene however there is great parking garage at the Pulmbo Center. It is a few blocks from downtown, so there are plenty of places to go within walking distance. Limited to no tailgating at this time, lets hope this will change once/if they tear down the Igloo. You can also ride the T to the game, get off at Steel Plaza.
Was there anything missing? Anything that needed to be changed? Any really great ideas?
Need to have tailgating, however most hockey places don't tailgate outside. Officials have not figured out the flow of people, exiting was a hassle because they had areas roped off that shouldn't be. Sound was WAY too loud, that is an easy fix. One super nice feature, they let everyone inside the without checking your ticket, that way you aren't waiting out in the cold or rain. You walk for 150 yards or so, then they scan your ticket. For a winter sports, this is a great idea. The Consol Energy Center will be a great addition to the Steel City.