New Consol Energy Center promises more room for fans

For anyone who has ever been squeezed as tight as a vise into a seat or banged his head against a railing trying to see around a pillar at Mellon Arena, the Consol Energy Center might just qualify as the proverbial lap of luxury.

Or so it seemed Tuesday when the Penguins showed off the first 2,700 seats that have been installed in the upper end zone at the south side of the new arena.

The team is promising fans more legroom and better views overall, with no obstructions, than they currently have at the Igloo, where the leg room rivals that of your average coach flight.

"All in all, we believe we have the most comfortable seating arrangement in the entire league," Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer said during a tour.

The seats in the upper bowl at Consol Energy Center will be 20 inches wide, making for a comfortable fit. But what fans might notice the most is the amount of leg room they will have.

At the new arena, the "tread," or amount of depth in the rows, will be 33 inches in the upper bowl and 35 inches in the lower bowl, making for more leg room.

That compares with a "tread" of 26 inches to 31 inches at Mellon.

The rows also will be a bit more pitched, meaning views won't be blocked by the person sitting in front of you.

In fact, the 6-foot-4 Mr. Sawyer sat in front of several reporters Tuesday without coming close to blocking their views of the surface below.

The upper bowl also is more steeply sloped than the lower level, in an effort to bring fans closer to the ice.

"Fans who are sitting here, despite the fact they're up high, they're going to feel like they're right on the action. We're very pleased with how this worked out," Mr. Sawyer said.

He stressed there will be no obstructed views in the Consol Energy Center, as there are in sections of Mellon Arena, at times requiring fans to risk neck sprains to see parts of the ice.

"This arena, our whole focus is on being fan friendly first, making sure it's a great experience for the fans, and the seating is a very big part of that," he said.

Before the end of the month, season ticket holders are expected to receive their new seat assignments and the prices that go with them.

They also will have the option to move to another location in the Consol Energy Center if they choose.

Mr. Sawyer said the team still is on schedule to complete the arena construction by Aug. 1.

Lady Gaga already has been booked to perform at the center on Sept. 5, but she will not be the opening act in the 18,087-seat venue.

The Penguins plan to hold some events in the new arena in August, Mr. Sawyer said, and expect to land a "big name" performer to open the building. Just who, they're not saying.

"It's quite common to open with a concert in advance of the hockey season," Mr. Sawyer said.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262. First Published March 17, 2010 4:00 AM


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