Future on ice: Delaying the arena's demolition hurts Pittsburgh

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It will only drag things out. That will be the result of a nomination, submitted Tuesday by a Hill District resident, of the Civic Arena for historic status.

After the city Planning Commission approved the demolition of the 49-year-old structure on a vote of 6-0, Eloise McDonald turned in an application that will be considered by the city's Historic Review Commission and eventually City Council.

The appeal was prepared with the help of two anti-demolition groups, Reuse the Igloo and Preservation Pittsburgh. Although the outmoded 17,000-seat arena has been replaced across the street by the Consol Energy Center, a Preservation Pittsburgh board member said the groups believe "the potential to benefit the Hill District, the city and the region to be greater with the arena in place as part of a long-term development."

But only if a developer is willing to invest millions in a silver-domed facility that resembles a flying saucer from a 1950s sci-fi movie. So far there have been no takers, despite the fact that everyone knew, beginning three years ago, that the arena was set to be replaced. Still, arena defenders keep tossing out ideas for reuse -- as a place for a park, a hotel, bowling, Christmas- and Halloween-related events, bicycle polo, book festivals, weddings and other celebrations.

Trouble is, the dark and empty building sits on a 28-acre site. That's a big space for real development that can help the neighborhood and the city.

But first the arena, which no longer serves as an arena, would have to go. And at $50,000 a month to mothball, the Sports and Exhibition Authority will be forced to waste good money that instead could be put toward development.

The sooner Pittsburgh gives up this ghost, the sooner it can get on with the future.


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