Penguins seeking top rating as greenest sports venue in U.S.

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Pittsburgh's new arena not only will be the newest in the National Hockey League when it opens in 2010 but the greenest in sports.

On Earth Day, the Penguins and the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority announced that they will seek a LEED Gold certification for the $321 million complex, which is being built adjacent to Mellon Arena.

The LEED Gold rating not only would be the first for any arena in the National Hockey League but also the first for any major sports venue in the country, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, the developer of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system.

Gold is the second-highest of the four possible certifications under LEED. In that respect, the Consol Energy Center would outdo two other new sports venues -- the $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium and the $850 million home of the New York Mets, neither of which achieved any level of LEED certification.

"We're delighted not just to be certified but to be a leader in the field," Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer said yesterday.

After touring the arena site, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said having such a high-profile building be so environmentally friendly can only help bolster the city's image in the eyes of the world.

"When you have the only NHL hockey arena that's a [LEED Gold] building, that's going to speak volumes to the rest of the country that Pittsburgh is a progressive city, it does invest in environmentally sustainable policies, and it's good news when you talk about the image of Pittsburgh and all that we're achieving here toward that end," he said.

Of major sports venues, the Washington Nationals' ballpark in Washington, D.C., has a LEED Silver designation, the third-highest, and arenas in Atlanta and Miami have basic LEED certification, according to the Green Building Council.

The Consol Energy Center would join 14 other buildings in Pittsburgh as gold-certified, including the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Penguins officials, who are overseeing the construction, always wanted to achieve the basic level of LEED certification in the arena. But as they researched the matter more, they realized they had the chance to reach gold.

"We wanted to have it happen. We wanted to get gold," Mr. Sawyer said, adding the decision won't increase the project's $321 million budget.

LEED certification is based on a system that awards points in categories such as energy and atmosphere, building materials and resources, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design.

The Penguins will benefit from some of the building's signature design features, such as the huge glass atrium that will face Downtown and spacious open concourses, both of which will bring in more natural light, one of the factors in the ratings.

Officials also are hoping to earn points for the amount of green space around the building, recycling, using materials bought locally for construction, the purchase of at least some electricity from "green" power sources, water management, indoor air quality, heating and cooling efficiency, and the selection of environmentally friendly paints.

Mr. Sawyer said the arena also could benefit from its urban location and its proximity to public transit.

"If we built out in the suburbs on a piece of farmland, that's a negative," he said.

The team won't know for sure until after the arena opens whether it achieved the designation.

But Mr. Sawyer said he was "pretty comfortable" that there will be more than enough points available to earn the rating.

While many of the green features might not be readily noticeable to fans, they, too, will profit from better air quality, improved heating and cooling, and other environmentally friendly aspects, he said.

During yesterday's tour, Mr. Sawyer said the arena is on pace to open before the 2010-11 hockey season. Much of the building's structural steel has been erected and some of the seating bowl and open concourses already are taking shape at the site.

Center ice is now a concrete slab covered by a three-foot-high mound of dirt. But it won't be that long before the first puck drops.

"I couldn't be happier," Mr. Sawyer said. "We're on schedule, on time and on budget. It's going to be one terrific building."


Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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