Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arena Demolition Process Delayed

Pittsburgh's vacant Civic Arena has been nominated as a city historic structure. The action was taken on behalf of two groups trying to save the arena after the Pittsburgh Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve demolition. The historic review process by the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission will prevent any action being taken by the Sports and Exhibition Authority to raze the arena, which they had planned to start in April. The City Planning Commission heard from those on both sides of the issue before voting yesterday. Eloise McDonald of the Hill District told the commission to "leave the Civic Arena for us." She said the Penguins have a "nice place to play" now. The Penguins own the development rights to the 28 acre site in the lower Hill. They favor tearing down the arena for new development. State Senator Jim Ferlo, also one of the speakers, said the "Penguins only intention is to demolish the site for more parking." Ferlo said "that is part of the agenda - the financial money involved with parking."

Travis Williams, senior vice president of business affairs and general counsel for the Penguins, told the commission that the conversations they have had with developers leads them to believe that leaving the arena in place would "severely and adversely impact the ability to develop the 28 acres." Williams said the preservationists "never put forth a plan that had an economic feasibility study behind it or any economic benefit analysis supporting it." He said those who argue in favor of saving the arena claim it's an "architectural wonder like the Space Needle or Arch in St. Lous." But Williams said, "while the dome was glorious in its day, (the Penguins) don't believe the arena is a true destination like the other two" facilities. Williams told the commission that facilities like "the arena, Boston Garden, Yankee Stadium, Detroit Tigers Stadium and Philadelphia Spectrum" are not being reused because it's economically unfeasbible to do so. Demolition of the Spectrum started yesterday.

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