Toilet test leaves arena officials flushed with satisfaction

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It was the flush of a lifetime.

A total of 250 college-age students packed the restrooms at the Consol Energy Center on Thursday, and a keg wasn't even involved.

It was not nature but the Penguins who called, seeking help from them and others to test the plumbing at the new arena.

The students were all too happy to help out, particularly with a chance to get inside the team's new home on the line.

"I've never been so excited to flush a toilet in my life," gushed Stephanie Lasinski, 23, a Pitt graduate student.

With the command of "on your mark, get set, start flushing," the students and another 200 helpers recruited by arena contractors worked 384 toilets and 168 urinals in the arena for more than 15 minutes and seemed to enjoy every second of it.

"It's easier than my day job," said Nick Szelc, 20, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania student who details cars and who worked his BlackBerry as he flushed again and again and again.

The simultaneous flushing of all toilets and urinals -- not once, but multiple times -- was a required test in advance of the arena's August opening.

While such testing normally is done without fanfare in arenas and stadiums, the Penguins decided to make it an event, inviting students age 18 and older to register for a chance to hit the john and dubbing it the "Student Flush" after its popular Student Rush ticketing program.

The students approached the task with enthusiasm, snapping photos of the arena and its giant high-definition scoreboard. They even whipped out cell phones and cameras and took photos while in the restrooms -- impolite on most days but not this one.

"I think it's pretty neat to say I got to flush Mario Lemieux's urinals," said Sean Krupa, 22, who just graduated from Duquesne University.

"I'm pretty excited. I've been practicing making sure I'm not the one who messes up," added his friend, Anthony Ross, 23, also a recent Duquesne grad.

As she stood on the same floor where Sidney Crosby will skate in a few months, Katie Pasternak, 20, a Westminster College student, was awestruck.

"Wow!" she said. "I'm kind of sad to see the old [arena] go, but inside I can't wait for the first home game."

Before Thursday's big flush, Penguins broadcaster Phil Bourque pumped up the crowd with a chant of "Let's Go Pens!" It was then off to the restrooms in groups, each designated by the name and number of a current or former Penguins' player, for several rounds of flushing.

Some worked two urinals at a time. Others commanded toilets. Together they produced a whoosh that would have made Archie Bunker proud.

In the end, the system passed its first test with flying colors, said Dave Buchanan, project manager for McKamish Inc., one of the contractors on the arena job.

"There were no problems, no issues," he said. "The engineer was in the pump room the entire event, had no issues and is very pleased with the system."

During the multiple flushings, from concourses to suites to the press box, some 50,000 gallons of water passed through the system, Mr. Buchanan said.

There also apparently were no problems for nearby property owners on Fifth Avenue, who are tied into the same combination storm and waste water line as the Consol Energy Center and who have experienced sewer backups in past years.

"We didn't expect any particular problems because there was no rain. To my knowledge, we haven't had a problem yet," said attorney Edward Friedman, whose office is at 900 Fifth Ave., a block from the arena.

In a restroom on the main concourse, Mr. Ross had no quibbles with his urinal.

"It went well. Nothing backed up. My shoes aren't wet," he said. "And I never had that much fun flushing a toilet."

For their efforts, students got a black "Student Flush" T-shirt, pizza and soft drinks afterward, and perhaps a memory like no other.

"It's like something to tell your kids," said Shane Tappe, 18, a recent graduate of Shaler Area High School.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.


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