Friday, April 09, 2010

The Igloo

The Penguins played the last regular season game at Mellon Arena last night, beating the Islanders 7-3. Sidney Crosby had four points, Bill Guerin had a couple of goals, and the crowd gave the building a standing O at the end.

The Pens had a nice, understated ceremony before the game, bringing out about fifty retired players and coaches for recognition, and a group photo with the current team. Fans handed replica jerseys over the glass; the players signed them and threw them back. A nice way for the old Igloo to officially go out.

The Beloved Spouse, Sole Heir, and I were back in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago to watch the Pens beat the Flyers 4-1, my last (their only) trip back to visit the first place I saw a hockey game. The dome still looks as impressive as ever, creating a perspective and quality of crowd sound not found elsewhere. It was the largest retractable dome in the world when it was completed in 1961. I attended a concert with the roof open during my college years, looking over the stage to Pittsburgh's skyline on a perfect night. An unforgettable experience.

In addition to hockey, I saw team tennis there, and several concerts. (Henry Mancini with Andy Williams, Herb Alpert, the Buddy Rich and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big bands.) Just a kid--eight or nine--the first time I went, to see Mancini with my parents. Going back last week, with other experiences to compare it with, the concourses were cramped, the gates narrow, but I still felt the smallness that comes with awe when I entered the seating area and looked at the banners hanging from the roof and the miniature blimp that flies over the seats and drops coupons to the fans. (I won free nachos.)

It's too easy and tired to get maudlin when something like this passes, and even I readily admit the Igloo's time has passed. Modern times require different amenities. There's not even a proper interview room there, and the dressing rooms are Spartan in their luxury. Still, this is the building I grew up with, the most easily identifiable structure in downtown Pittsburgh. (The baseball and football stadiums are on the North Side.) Everything I'd heard and seen says the new Consol Energy Center will be great, truly the House that Mario Built.

If only they'd put a dome on it. Even a little one.


Charlieopera said...

Dana: Did you get to go to Forbes Field?

Dana King said...

Yes, I made several tripe to Forbes Field. My dad took me to see Koufax pitchonce, and my uncle used to take me down once a year for a Saturday afternoon game. We'd go down early, park on Forbes Avenue, and walk to the Carnegie Museum to see the dinosaurs. (The museum is the building that can be seen beyond the scoreboard in the famous picture of Mazeroski hitting the home run.) Then we'd get a hot dog at the game and sneak down into the grandstand seats after the sixth inning or so, when the ushers didn't mind.

I have several photographs of Forbes, a framed line drawing, and a pretty nice replica about six inches square. It's the first place I ever saw a major league game, and I always think fondly of it, even though my memories are so old now they're more like images.