What's in a name? For Pitt, $100,000

Removing old 'Pittsburgh' logo a major undertaking

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Modifying a university's brand image can be a bit like swimming up river.

At the University of Pittsburgh, that effort might even have a sound associated with it -- that of a jackhammer.

The University of Pittsburgh is removing this outdated tile logo from the Petersen Events Center.
Click photo for larger image.

That's because a giant tile logo that reads "Pittsburgh," built at a cost of more than $100,000 into the main lobby floor of the Petersen Events Center, will be torn up and modified under an effort to put the "PITT" back in Pitt athletics.

Jeff Long, the school's athletic director, yesterday confirmed the planned work this summer inside the 12,500-seat arena, which opened in 2002 and is home to the school's basketball teams.

He said the Panther head inside the logo also will be updated to a newer, sleeker version announced last month.

Mr. Long said the lobby floor logo modification will likely cost $25,000. Another $50,000 is being spent to change banners and signs in the Petersen and elsewhere, but Mr. Long said most of those signs would have required replacement or maintenance anyway because of their age.

The circular logo inside the Petersen, about 34 feet in size, is a common sight to those entering the $119 million center. Mr. Long said planners were mindful of costs involved but also felt the change was important.

"It's our image. It's our brand and certainly a statement about the University of Pittsburgh and Pitt athletics," he said. "It's important in a place as highly visible as the Petersen for us to have our primary logo."

The work will be paid for out of the athletic department's annual operating fund.

For decades, the moniker "Pitt" was associated with the university's sports teams. But in early 1997, then athletic director Steve Pederson announced a revised strategy that, among other things, called for replacing the four letters with the word "Pittsburgh."

"We shifted the emphasis to Pittsburgh to promote our city affiliation," said athletic department spokesman E.J. Borghetti.

But traditions die hard.

"Pitt never really did leave the minds or the lips of people living within the region," he said.

In 2005, the athletic department under Mr. Long announced its intention to resurrect use of the letters "PITT" for its official logo and "Pitt" for other signs and merchandise.

Installation of the tile logo inside the Petersen was a complicated endeavor in a construction project hindered by delays and cost overruns. Pitt wanted a six-color mosaic of the logo in the lobby floor, and persuaded the state to buy a special terrazzo called Fritztile.

Work started in wintertime, while the Petersen still wasn't enclosed. Crews erected a temporary enclosure in the lobby and heated it to 70 degrees so the tile could be installed properly.

The floor was uneven, so it was repaired. An architect thought gray tiles contrasted poorly with the masonry. He had them replaced with "more aesthetic" gold tiles. Then, on a cold night in March 2002, the sprinklers froze and spilled water. The Panther logo had to be repaired.

Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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