Here it is: I didn’t feel any sense of nostalgia when I heard we would be losing the Civic Arena. In fact, I was almost giddy that Pittsburgh was trying to (gasp) plan a 28-acre city space that could be useful and beneficial for downtown growth. The Igloo. Gone. Sacrificed for the greater good of our city. Offered up to the Gods of public sport. Home to our beloved Eskimos?
All was well and good with my historical conscience. I was amenable to the idea, heck, I wanted it to be demolished–now. That is…until I made the long trek down Mario Lemieux Place to the Consol Energy Center for open Penguins practice in September of 2010.
The Consol. The savior of Pittsburgh hockey. The house that Mario built. I took all my boys down and parked on the road that led around the arena. There was a fence that was erected around the perimeter now, and we walked the long path to the Consol, past the old arena ticket windows, right by the steps leading down from the parking lots, and under the steel trestle. All four of us in a row, walking slowly, goofing off, and looking at all the vinyl signs in the windows with larger than life action shots of last season’s players. I reminisced:
- Going to my first Pens game with my Dad. I was just 11 years old and my Mom had won hockey tickets at a church bingo. They were taped to an autographed hockey stick. The autograph was by a new guy on the team, a few years older than me: number 66. It was crush at first sight.
- The 80′s and 90′s, hockey hair, Le Magnifique. Watching game after game with Tim, Justin, and Jon. Going to games with Robertson. Two Stanley Cups.
- In the late 90′s and during my tenure at Mellon, the Penguins were practically GIVING tickets away to employees of their corporate sponsor. Those years were filled with hockey for my husband and me, even through the team went through some pretty uneventful seasons. That is, until that game in late December of 2000 where Mario unexpectedly came back to play. We thought it would be just another game when we bought the tickets, but I can still see his jersey number banner being lowered down from the ceiling.
- In 2010, just last year, I went to my first playoff game and I witnessed a Sidney Crosby hat trick: a goal, an assist…and a save.
The Consol was nice. It was clean. It was sanitary. It was open. It was quiet. It was…beige. I missed the narrow halls of the arena, the public parade of fans in an unintentional moving mosh mob. I missed the din of the crowd; somehow noise was lost in the new place. I missed feeling close to the ice, on top of the players. I missed the dirty walls, the fluorescent lighting.
I missed…the old place.
How did I handle my new conundrum? How did I allay my Pittsburgh (Catholic) guilt and make things right? The Consol is what the team needed and why they stayed. What could I do to make the transition easier?
By buying a piece of the old Civic Arena, of course.
I would like to welcome the newest addition to the Sciullo household to you. This, this ladies and gentlemen, is Tag#CA6765.
The Civic Arena memorabilia auction was the perfect way for us to say so long. Now, I could keep a piece of my beloved Igloo and move on. I tried to buy a turnstile, but was outbid. I thought about buying a ticket window, but that would turn into a Kohler commercial: “design a house around this (ticket window).” I let that one go. My friends bought an enormous sign of the section where they sat on their first date together. Everything was for the taking. The toilet from Lemieux’s luxury suite was even listed, but later taken down. But the bench: it was mine.
Just remember, when you’re pining over the Civic Arena, the characters and props in this tragedy are still there. The players, the fans, the people in the beer line (that ALL look familiar), the excellent mullets that still abound, the kids going to their fist game, the jersey-ed masses, the nachos and beer, **the cotton candy guy. They are still there, just as they were in a stainless steel dome against a gray and dirty background. Only now, that stainless steel dome has been replaced by a shiny glass and brick building and that background is now beige and very, very clean.
If I couldn’t have Mario’s toilet, by God, I’d have something else that his ass had sat on: a 13 foot team bench. Come on over and have a seat if you’re ever getting nostalgic.
**Updated June, 2011: Sadly, Cotton Candy Guy, Kenny Geidel, 64, passed away in May, 2011.