Penguins have had designs on new arena for a number of weeks

Team has been working quietly with architect involved with building PNC Park and Heinz Field

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An architect's drawing of what the exterior of the new arena could look like. The team has been quietly working with HOK, the architects for Heinz Field and PNC Park to refine the plans.
By Robert Dvorchak
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

While the Penguins declared publicly that they were aggressively pursuing all options in other cities for a new arena, they were working behind the scenes with HOK Sports Inc. for the past six weeks on moving ahead with the design of the one that will be built here.

"Quietly, I might add," said team president Ken Sawyer.

The Penguins have not yet officially retained HOK, the nationally renowned firm that was the architect for PNC Park and Heinz Field, but they have been working with HOK for the past 61/2 years while arena talks were ongoing.

In 2001, HOK did an $80,000 study, paid for by the team, which determined that it would be more feasible to build a new building than to refurbish Mellon Arena. It is unclear what the time frame will be for selecting a project architect, but the Penguins want to begin work as quickly as possible.

There are artist renderings of what the new arena will look like from the outside. And after years of labor pains in acquiring funding, everyone wants to know what the baby will look like inside and outside.

What is known is that an 18,000-seat arena will be built slightly to the south of Mellon Arena in a footprint bordered by Centre Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Washington Place. Epiphany Church, one of several historic buildings in the grid, would not be affected but other buildings could be.

The new arena will have two entrances to a common concourse, and there will be improved sight lines for ticket-holders, more open spaces and open views that will allow fans to keep in touch with the action if they leave their seats to visit concession stands.

Meanwhile, the 28-acre site around Mellon Arena is planned for urban development.

Under the term sheet signed yesterday, the Penguins will receive a $15 million incentive from the city and county to develop the site over the next 10 years.

In the past several years, plans have been discussed about revitalizing the Fifth Avenue corridor to create shops and office buildings.

Development would also reconnect the Hill District to Downtown, and city and county officials will speak with neighborhood leaders this morning about their input on celebrating and recapturing the culture of the neighborhood.

"What we're talking about here is actually rebuilding a part of the city," said Don Carter, president of Urban Design Associates, which has been working with the Penguins.

"It's an opportunity to rebuild a piece of the city that kind of went away."

Mr. Carter has called the 28 acres one of the greatest development sites in the United States because it is near public transportation and adjacent to Downtown.

Some proposals for the site include rental housing, single-family homes, shops, a hotel, restaurants, parking garages and one or two city parks.

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said development would be based on work being done between PNC Park and Heinz Field because planners learned their lessons from Three Rivers Stadium, where development never occurred.

Robert Dvorchak can be reached at or at 412-263-1959.


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