Misty hockey-colored memories

Civic Arena signs, doors, banners, photos, other memorabilia being auctioned and seats being sold on Web

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For Penguins fans, it might be the ultimate garage sale.

Much of the history related to the team's 43-year run at the Civic Arena is now for sale online, from pucks and banners to the steel doors to the locker room and a Penguins shower room counter and sink set, a sure conversation starter if there ever was one.

The items are part of a memorabilia auction being conducted at www.asset-auctions.com by AssetNation under an agreement with the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority and the Penguins.

Bidding started the day before Thanksgiving and will close at 10 p.m. next Wednesday. In all, 501 items are available for purchase by the highest bidder, including team photos, locker room signs, banners and even Christmas ornaments, along with Civic Arena concourse and concession signs and turnstiles.

"We pretty much took everything that looked like a reasonable opportunity [for purchase]," said Clint Francis, auction manager for Asset Auctions, the division of AssetNation handling the sale.

With a week to go, some frenzied bidding already is taking place.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a 20-inch by 20-inch Pittsburgh Penguins Locker Room sign had attracted 42 bids, the highest being $510. That was up more than $100 from the evening before.

A 101-inch by 34-inch Mario Lemieux Ring of Honor banner had received a high bid of $205, up from $130 the day before. A dry erase board used by Penguins' coaches had generated 21 bids, the highest being $105.

Other hot items included a 24-inch by 18-inch neon Pen Station sign from the Penguins team store with a high bid of $225; a Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Champions picture with a high bid of $180; a Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Operations sign with a top bid of $230; and 99-inch by 53-inch vinyl photos of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby going for $126 and $105, respectively. Both hung from arena windows.

Despite broken glass, a limited edition framed picture of former goalie Johan Hedberg had received 22 bids, the highest $105. A limited edition framed picture of Penguins commemorative envelopes was going for $230, and a cereal bin and metal wire fruit racks from the team locker room had a high bid of $52.

Some arena-related memorabilia also was doing well. A concourse sign with a seating directory was bidding at $130; a green-and-black concourse sign for levels A, B, C and sections 22, 21 and 20 was going for $102; and a double-sided, arrow-shaped concourse sign with the Penguins logo had attracted a high bid of $105. A Gate 1 turnstile had seven bids -- $82 the top.

Mr. Francis said it was sometimes hard to tell what items would draw the most interest from bidders.

"We took as broad of a sampling of removable items as possible because you really don't know what's going to be sentimental to someone or have that emotional attachment until you try it," he said.

He said he was "very encouraged" by the bidding so far, adding that it should give way to a strong finish. "The last day there will be a ton of bidding activity and a bidding war where you will see who wants that item the most," he said.

As part of hectic last-day activity, AssetNation has set up a system that allows for a two-minute extension beyond the deadline to give those outbid at the last moment another crack at an item.

Mr. Francis said the extension is to prevent "the last-minute snipe" and to give people "a full opportunity to bid as much as they're willing to bid and a chance to win the item."

Those shut out in this round will probably get a second chance in another smaller auction yet to be scheduled.

If the memorabilia auction isn't enough, seats from the arena will go on sale to the general public today. Until now, only Penguins season ticket holders have had a chance to buy seats, which went on sale online at www.iglooseats.com in early November.

Black club level seats already are gone, but Mr. Francis said blue Igloo level and orange and red seats were still available. A pair of seats costs $495 plus $120 for shipping. About 4,800 pairs initially were available.

Starting today, another 4,300 "commemorative" single seats will go on sale for $495 apiece plus the $120 shipping. Fans who want to avoid the shipping charge will be able to pick up their seats at the arena sometime after March.

The sale of seats, memorabilia, and arena equipment and furniture is expected to generate $1.6 million for the SEA, the arena owner, and $800,000 for the Penguins organization, which plans to donate most of it to the Penguins Foundation to support youth hockey.

Even as the SEA sells off items from inside the arena, some local preservation groups are fighting to prevent the building's demolition. Last week, a Hill District woman filed an application to have the arena designated a city historic structure.

While Rob Pfaffmann, a local architect seeking to save the arena, has warned that some arena assets could be considered "character-defining" features, he said Tuesday that he had no problem with the sale of the memorabilia.

Mr. Pfaffmann added that he would like to see the revenue raised from the sale go to pay arena operating costs while he and others explore a possible reuse for the building.

However, that's not the SEA's intent. It may use its share to help pay for the demolition, estimated at $5 million.

Mark Belko: 412-263-1262.


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