As the Penguins' playoff run heats up, the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority is taking steps to ensure the Mellon Arena ice doesn't.
The SEA board authorized up to $75,000 in reimbursement to the Penguins yesterday for the rental of portable cooling units to help maintain the temperature of the old building and, by extension, the ice as the weather gets warmer.
Jay Roberts, general manager of SMG, which runs Mellon Arena, said the coolers will be available as a precaution to prevent potential problems. They will be used only if necessary.
"In extremely hot weather, we could potentially run into some capacity problems with air, and this is to try to minimize that," he said.
Roberts said it can be a struggle cooling the building, the oldest in the National Hockey League, when there are sellouts and when the weather is hot and humid. The problem is compounded when gates open and fans enter the building, bringing the warm air with them.
"We haven't had any problems where because of atmospheric conditions we had the threat of canceling a game. We've always been able to maintain a sheet," Roberts said.
In 2006, a Boston College-Boston University hockey game was called because of fog and deteriorating ice conditions.
The Penguins haven't come close to anything like that, although a 1989 playoff game against the Philadelphia Flyers was delayed for 80 minutes because of a blown transformer at the arena. Fans were forced to wait outside, in part because of fears that body heat could affect the ice temperature.
Reimbursement for the coolers will come from a promotional account funded through surcharges on Penguins' tickets.
Mark Belko can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1262.