Threatened: Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena

 

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Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena, which opened in 1961, is the country's only freestanding retractable dome.

A five-year debate over a midcentury modern stadium rages on this month in Pittsburgh. City officials plan to demolish the old arena when a new one is completed.

Dedicated in 1961 as the Civic Arena, the Mellon Arena features a 300-ton motorized retractable roof. Despite its formidable design, the dome can be retracted to reveal the Pittsburgh sky in only two minutes, all without the help of any interior supports, no less. Architects all over the world consider "the Igloo" a prime example of post-war engineering and design. It has hosted performances by Elvis, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles.

The new arena, which will be larger and more luxurious, is nearing completion on a close but separate site. The city plans to demolish the Mellon Arena only once the new one is open and ready for business. But so far, it appears the city has no specific development plans for the site. Why then, ask preservationists, must the owners destroy an international landmark of civic engineering and architectural design?

Since the main argument for demolition is the building's potential lack of use, preservationists are urging officials to consider the wide-range of ways they could reuse the space.

"Imagine our Civic Arena reborn as a cultural center, ethnic marketplace, nightclubs, housing, hotel, or any combination of new complementary uses," says Robert Pfaffman, architect and board member of Preservation Pittsburgh. "A proposed new Penguins arena that anchors Fifth Avenue redevelopment is a great opportunity if planned and designed properly. The reuse of the arena is not an either/or proposition; we can do both. The redevelopment of the arena can be a 'win-win' for the community, the region, and the Penguins."  

Preservation Pittsburgh and other groups have also suggested turning the Mellon Arena into an African American Cultural Center and museum, or perhaps a hotel. The sea of parking lots surrounding the Igloo could be developed to include restaurants, hotels, shops, and nightclubs that would generate income.

 

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Comments

Submitted by Mike at: March 21, 2011
Sorry, but I disagree with the point of view of this article... I mean; Mellon Arena is a place of triumph and a remarkable piece of history for sure. But turning it into a cultural center or one of those other ideas will not help it at all. By doing that; you would destroy its purpose. Like kicking it when it's down, you would never want to do anything of the likes of that to such an architectural masterpiece and innovation for Pittsburgh. It's had its day in the spotlight and soon it's going to be on the Consol Energy Center so let Mellon Arena go. Nothing lasts forever and it will be in the hearts and minds of Pittsburghers forever. Mike

Submitted by xsanexensprocket at: October 11, 2010
I have an idea to save the Igloo from destruction. But how do would u go about talking to the SEA Board.

Submitted by city15217 at: September 16, 2010
Today the SEA board voted to demolish the building. Very sad day for Pittsburgh preservationists. Please, everyone, help re-use the Igloo and save one of Pittsburgh national symbols and architectural masterpieces.

Submitted by The good shepherd at: June 28, 2010
Save the Civic Arena. It is too good and too iconic and too functional to simply throw it away. Pittsburgh has too few distinctive, imoprtant buildings. This is one of them. Sell it to private investors. They will find a good use for it, the city will get some 'now' csh, and will get property tax money for years to come. Don't be stupid....Save the dome.

Submitted by Anonymous at: May 23, 2010
Use it; Dont abuse it

Submitted by anonymous at: May 23, 2010
Exactly, Mellon Arena has so much potential to become something else from a community ice rink to a museum to a hotel. No matter what they do to it, it was, and hopefully still be a standing Pittsburgh landmark.

Submitted by Anonymous at: May 17, 2010
My fellow Pittsburghers who are saying the Civic Arena needs to be demolished make me ashamed of my hometown. I truly do not understand the mentality that once the intended purpose has ceased, that a building cannot be reused in a thoughtful and beneficial way. After all, the Civic Arena was not built with the intention of hosting the Penguins, but was adapted to serve that purpose. Why can't we allow this building to evolve into a new and useful purpose that can only serve to bolster our already great city?

Submitted by LovePittsburgh at: April 13, 2010
I agree with PittsburghFan and the Unkown post...conservation of the arena may be ideal to some, but don't mock what it was by turning it into a hotel. If generating revenue is something the city is worried about, auction off the pieces like they did with Three Rivers. I personally am a proud owner of three of the Three Rivers Stadium seats, and it's a great way for real fans to own a piece of Pittsburgh, and their own, history. It was great while it lasted, but everything has a time to go...let's just let it go in peace and remember the arena for all the great times it held for all of us.

Submitted by Unknown at: January 17, 2010
I agree with PittsburghFan. Mellon Arena's has had its' day in the spotlight, but it is old, and there isn't the capacity to hold as many fans as the new Consol Energy Center. It is like Three Rivers Stadium. Three Rivers was the site of many great plays and players. The Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris, Roberto Clemente's 3,000 home run hit before his death, and many other great memories. Even though the structure does not physically exist anymore and has been replaced by newer facilities, the memories from all these events in the stadium will be remembered forever. By demolishing Mellon, those memories will be even greater in the years to come when you can say "I remember that" or "Thats Where Mellon Arena once was!"

Submitted by PittsburghFan at: January 15, 2010
Sorry, but I disagree with the point of view of this article... I mean; Mellon Arena is a place of triumph and a remarkable piece of history for sure. But turning it into a cultural center or one of those other ideas will not help it at all. By doing that; you would destroy its purpose. Like kicking it when it's down, you would never want to do anything of the likes of that to such an architectural masterpiece and innovation for Pittsburgh. It's had its day in the spotlight and soon it's going to be on the Consol Energy Center so let Mellon Arena go. Nothing lasts forever and it will be in the hearts and minds of Pittsburghers forever. SO DON'T TRY TO SAVE IT!!!! ITS DAY HAS COME AND WILL SOON BE GONE

Submitted by Anonymous at: January 15, 2010
It is a builiding, get over it already. Take a picture and move on.

Submitted by Leaf suck at: December 21, 2009
They didn't take down Maple Leaf Garden, so why civic?

Submitted by J Lawrence at: December 12, 2009
Someone needs to go around the City of Pittsburgh and nominate the Arena to the NRHP. Houston can preserve the Astrodome but Pittsburgh can't manage to save the Arena. What's wrong with this picture?

Submitted by PghHeritage at: October 30, 2009
The Civic Arena is uniquely Pittsburgh. The technology that built it is from Westinghouse and US Steel, among others. We should find an appropriate re-use for it. The Civic Arena was built around the same time as the St. Louis Arch and the Seattle Space Needle. It is historically relevant to the region, not just to Penguins fans. Let's celebrate this wonderful structure instead of tearing it down!

Submitted by Anonymous at: October 27, 2009
LET IT GO!!

Submitted by BREADMAN at: October 27, 2009
Pittsburgh's first renaissance was built with a vision of how this city could tell the world that we are relevant. "LOOK AT US." the second renaissance was a measure of economic stability in a city that continued to build for the future. This third renaissance takes us back to our first. It lets the world know how special we are..the people, our culture and architecture, and preservation of our past!...KEEP THIS UNIQUE and WONDERFUL STRUCTURE..for our future..

Submitted by worried at: October 21, 2009
People just do not understand that the area was NOT built for hockey. I love hockey, but it was built for the CLO, it was supposed to be amphitheater style. The jumbotron and extra lighting is the only reason the roof will not open. It has an amazing view of the city when it is open, it is ONE OF A KIND and should not be demolished. What a waste of the most unique building in the city. I am sickened by the thought of it being destroyed.

Submitted by Anonymous at: August 19, 2009
People always want to save old buildings but fail to realize the large costs involved. Who will pay to renovate and maintain the building. Also, I'm sure heating and cooling the building is extremely inefficient. Let it go!

Submitted by Reuse the Igloo at: August 16, 2009
http://www.popcitymedia.com/features/arena0812.aspx Anon 12/22/08: You have no idea what you are talking about: The arena is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most innovative structures of the 20th century. I know, I am an architect and planner specializing in rehab of historic structures and have done the research and can back it up. http://gallery.mac.com/robertpfaffmann2#100479 The arena was featured at an international conference in Rotterdam last Fall. As is often typical of current day Pittsburghers we dont have any vision!

Submitted by A Serious Penguin Fan at: August 2, 2009
how about instead of having it be demolished you could just have the arena be a iceskating rink or have it be for a younger leage to practice on

Submitted by John at: May 26, 2009
This area is too dense to realize what an architectural wonder we have in the arena. What does improperly frozen ice or poor lighting have to do with preserving it? It truly is one of a kind. I hope we wake up before it's too late.

Submitted by Anonymous at: December 22, 2008
Other than Pens fans, who cares? The building dates back to the late fifties and has no historic significance beyond hockey memories. It was a site of some great moments in sport but so was Boston Garden and Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, both of which are more historically storied. The building is a true eyesore and really is a dump. It is an embarrassment to the city of Pittsburgh and the NHL. Watching games from Mellon you can frequently see that the ice is not properly frozen and the lighting is horrible. Many teams complain that the dressing rooms are not up to league standards. It isn't fair to the visiting teams to have to play in a such a piece of junk. Pittsburgh is wise to FINALLY invest in a new building. Something that most teams did 10+ years ago. Crosby, the league's darling (pardon me while I throw up), shouldn't have to play in such a sub-par rink. Mellon Arena has always been an awkward NHL arena, considering that it was never intended to host hockey. It is also one of the reasons why I dislike the Pittsburgh Penguins so much. Glad to see that it will finally be gone!

Submitted by Anonymous at: December 18, 2008
If the structure is well maintained it should certainly be saved! I always hope for a new "renaissance" of cultural events in America. It could be that one day the demand for concert halls and auditoriums doubles from that of today. If this "renaissance" occurs, this stadium would be a perfect location for all sorts of cultural events and could become an even greater Pittsburgh icon. My particular fantasy in regards to historic preservation would be that this 1960's era stadium host '60s styled shows... '60's music, 60's retro fashion shows, '60s car shows, perhaps 1960's antique shows, etc. That's the sort of cultural rennaissance I fantasize about. But sadly this will almost certainly not happen.