Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SEA Considers Options for Arena

The City-County Sports and Exhibition Authority meets with a group of "interested parties" this evening from 6-8 o'clock at the Convention Center to review the options for the 39 year old Mellon Arena.
The Pittsburgh Penguins hold the development rights to the 28 acres upon which the arena sits and they want to demolish the facility to make way for 1,200 units of housing, a 150-room hotel, entertainment and retail, office space, 2,100 parking spaces and a little more than an acre of park space.
This evening's meeting is the 8th get together of the group that includes architects with an interest in historic preservation and members of the Hill District community.
They had been considering 6 different options with two of them involving whether the Penguins could continue to occupy Mellon Arena. But the Penguins are relocating to the newly constructed Consol Center across the street.
Chris Cieslak of Chronicle Consulting has been working with the SEA and says the other four choices are....(1) mothballing the arena, which is the baseline (2) an option loosely based on architect Rob Pfaffman’s plan to put a boutique-style hotel in the arena (3) continuing to use the building as a multi-purpose arena, but at a reduced size, similar to the original design of the building back in 1961, but with a smaller venue and (4) the Penguins' plan to demolish the arena and clear the site for future development.
Tonight the economic impact study of the Penguin’s plan commissioned by architect Rob Pfaffman, who is with “Reuse the Igloo” and Preservation Pittsburgh, will be presented at the SEA meeting. It was done by 4ward Planning. Pfaffman has submitted his plan to save the arena from the wrecking ball.
Cieslak says the SEA has been looking at a lot of refinements of the reuse options based on ideas from the public, such as markets, parks and community ice rinks, which are evaluated in the second draft of the options report on the SEA website
She says in considering the re-purposing ideas for Mellon Arena, the study group has looked at affordability, economic benefit and cost to the region, as well as compatibility with the surrounding community and urban design principles. The SEA believes returning the land to private ownership is the best way to create employment opportunities for the community and to generate tax revenue for the region. Cieslak says most of the reuse alternatives will require a significant amount of public subsidy to re-purpose the building and to continue operation and maintenance.
As of August 1, the Penguins lease of Mellon Arena expires. That’s when the SEA will assume the costs of maintaining the building. Cieslack says that’s estimated to be anywhere from $76-thousand dollars to $122-thousand dollars a month.
The SEA board will have to vote on what to do with the arena. No date has been set for that vote.

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