Sir McCartney to Open Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh

17 Jun

Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh

The brand new, state-of-the-art facility — the new home of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins — will open to the sights and sounds of legendary former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney on Aug. 18. The new facility is the last remaining professional hockey arena to be opened following a string of new openings over the last decade, and the second-to-last professional sports arena behind the Amway Center in Orlando.

“It’s a very busy opening month,” said Director of Marketing Rob Goodman. In its first month, the new facility will host Lady Gaga, which also sold out almost immediately after going on sale, two nights of Spirit of America — a free, highly visual, live-action U.S. Army show, American Idol Live!, and Rush’s Time Machine Tour. “The first three shows in the building are sellouts.”

General Manager Jay Roberts is especially excited about the McCartney show as he considers him to be “the one that got away.” While working in operations for Mellon Arena — the facility that Consol Energy Center will be replacing — Roberts said they had a chance to host McCartney but couldn’t, due to lack of hanging capability.

“My GM, Hank Abate, came into my office and said we had the show and I just had to figure a way to hang it,” Roberts said. “For the first time, I had to tell him no, we can’t do it. So, it’s fitting that we are now opening the new Consol Energy Center with the one I could not hang at Mellon.”

The $321-million venue’s opening date was actually moved up a couple of weeks in order to accommodate McCartney and have the opportunity for the venue to feature him as its grand opening guest, Goodman said. Designer Populous and project manager Pittsburgh Arena Development plan to open the facility by mid-August. SMG will lead a local consortium to manage the facility.

Roberts said, for him, the highlights of the new venue are things that other venue managers probably take for granted, such as spacious rear loading docks and ample hanging grids, because these are things he has been surviving without at Mellon Arena for so many years.

Not only will the new building feature five loading docks and tons of power, but it will also have a half house and upper bowl curtain system, which will give them much more flexibility in events. Plus, Roberts continued, the open concourse design will work well for sporting events but will also improve sound quality for concerts.

The new center also boasts an incredible new HD video screen, Roberts said.

“We got to see it for the first time during the McCartney press conference last week. It’s just incredible how clear it is. I was 20 feet away and it looked like I was watching it from my living room,” he said.

The final event scheduled for Mellon Arena is a James Taylor and Carole King concert on June 26. King and Taylor performed together at the venue Feb. 26, 1971, so Roberts said it is fitting that they close down the old arena.

The old building is currently in the final stages of the historical review process and, depending on the outcome, is scheduled to be torn down to make way for new development. Mellon Arena was built in 1961.

“It was definitely time for a new arena,” Roberts said. — Lindsay Sandham

Interviewed for this article: Rob Goodman, (412) 642-1904; Jay Roberts, (412) 642-1893

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