Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Chapter

Last night marked my first trip to the CONSOL Energy Center. Being that I live 10 hours away and the demand for tickets, I felt fortunate to be there with my wife (and daughter on the way). I wasn't sure what to expect, aside from a few passing negative items (stairs are steep, press box is far from action - as if I care about that) and a heaping of good reviews. Having recently been to a fairly new arena (Scottrade Center) and a very new arena (Nationwide Arena), I can say that the new digs stack up to anybody's. As usual, it was first-class, just like anything 66 touches.
As far as the comments that were negative...I found them to be nit-picking. Yes, the stairs are steep (my pregnant wife would attest), but if that is the price for some leg and elbow room (I am about 6'3 and big), I'll take it. I've had nights at Civic Arena (in section B!!!) where I literally had hip cramps from my legs being pretty much immobile. Plus, if you want steep steps that are frightening, you should have been to the old Yankee Stadium rightfield seats - yikes.
If you've already been to a game, this bores you, of course. So lets consider the environment and feel of the place. I will admit, at this point its a bit sterile. Maybe a few cup runs (and home ice clincher!) would add to its charm. In addition, its corporate loaded. Even the gates and warmups have sponsors. But instead of standing on a soapbox, I say burn it for firewood. The reality is our nation, and thus our sports, are driven by corporate dollars. Having lived in other parts of the rust belt, I am proud Pittsburgh has a great corporate presence, even if it is contrived and rammed down throats (like at CONSOL). If you want to rid our area of this type of commercialism, okay...take a drive up to Youngstown one day. Hey, if you make it out alive, you could even visit East Cleveland, which makes PGH hoods look like Fox Chapel. I have reason to hate the new place, because CONSOL is an "evil empire" according to a coal-mining relative of mine that has been through some shit with them. But, coal-mining is a dirty business done by dirty people; this is hardly breaking news. They have the dollars to name the place that will house my favorite sports team. Likewise, PNC has the corporate dong to label the club boxes the "Legends Level". Good for them, these companies are run by egomaniacs that want to see their name in the bright lights, but as long as it helps keep our core skating for years to come, I remain unphased.
Some of the most underrated aspects of CONSOL, to me, were the stairwells with each team picture from '67 to present - very cool. I loved the views and the open feel in the concessions. I thought the facilities were on the money. I've heard a gripe or two about the bathrooms being too crowded still, probably because some dudes like piss troughs. Yes, there will always be a line between periods to whiz...Look, I was able to handle that and get back to my seat with 5 mins to spare during intermission. I was able to get some food at another intermission in just a few minutes. This is great. A final great aspect is being able to come into the big foyer space pre-gate opening. This time was spent selling merchandise that the team and the league make bank on (as opposed to Dick's). Conversely, in STL, Scottrade opened up 30 mns before game time, which was bizarre. Hundreds of us stood outside and waited to get in. These people could have been raking over money in retail stuff.
In the end, sports is now a business. The old steel roof, tight concourses, and character of Civic Arena have been replaced with wider walkways, a clear disconnect from the corporate/high dollar seats and the rest of us regular people, and a more sterile place. I have no complaints about this. Its progress, progress is good, progress is what West PA needs. Andy Warhol had some quote like "Good art is good business"...CONSOL is great art.

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