The Pittsburgh Penguins
' highly popular Student Rush program, featuring $20 game tickets to high school and college students, has proven to be one of the most successful marketing initiatives in all of professional sports the past several seasons.
As a way to reward those loyal fans who have been more than willing to brave the elements in rain, snow, sleet and hail to stand in line outside Mellon Arena in the hopes of being able to purchase game tickets, the Penguins invited 250 "Student Rushers" to Consol Energy Center on Thursday for a spinoff event dubbed the "Student Flush."
Taking advantage of a necessary requirement that comes with building a new arena or stadium -- testing out the piping and water flow by flushing all of the toilets and urinals -- the Penguins randomly selected 125 members from their Student Rush Mobile Club and allowed each winner to bring one friend or family member to help the workers of PJ Dick Hunt and McKamish participate in a simultaneous flushing of the commodes at Consol Energy Center.
"We think events like this are important because we do have one of the younger fan bases in all of professional sports and they have been loyal to us for a long time," Penguins president David Morehouse said. "We like to give back to the young fans and our season ticket holders whenever we can. Symbolically, because of Student Rush, having the Student Flush event and having them be the first to come into the new building was the right thing to do."
Needless to say, the fans who were fortunate enough to help flush the 384 toilets and 168 urinals were more than happy to help out their favorite team.
"It was great," said Jim Yanosick, a five-year member of the Student Rush Mobile Club from Robert Morris University. "I always saw myself as an amateur flusher. I got to move up into the professional ranks now. But in all seriousness it was great to get to come in, see the whole arena and flush some toilets."
"It is just fun to participate in helping open a new arena," said Matt Tobin, a Williamsport native who made the four-hour drive to Pittsburgh after entering the Student Rush Mobile Club drawing while checking out the Penguins' website a few week ago. "I have never been able to make a Penguins game since it's a long drive and tickets are hard to come by. When I had the opportunity to come out here, I thought this could be a pretty interesting experience. It was very exciting."
"The Penguins do a great job of giving back to their fans," said Andy Hughes, a California University of Pennsylvania student. "They always talk about how great we are, but with the players we have the Penguins are one of the classiest organizations in sports. I don't think many teams would do something like this, so it was definitely a unique experience."
While it was definitely a good thing that all of the fans who had the chance to come take in the sparkling new facility the Penguins will move into this fall enjoyed partaking in this one-of-a-kind event, it was equally as important that all of the piping and water flow checked out OK.
"We had a successful Student Flush," Morehouse reported happily.
Prior to the flushing, each of the 400 participants was assigned to one of 32 groups featuring the name and number of a current or former Penguins player. Once they found out their group assignments, the flushers were given a T-shirt containing the Student Flush logo on the front and the accompanying player's name and number, along with the sponsors, PJ Dick Hunt and McKamish, on the back.
Penguins radio color commentator Phil Bourque
was on hand to serve as the MC and bestowing his usual exuberant enthusiasm for the team, he led the entire group into the first official "Let's Go Pens" chant at Consol Energy Center before instructing them to break up into smaller units.
With everybody fired up to begin, the flushers were led to each of the four levels -- main concourse, suites, upper concourse and media level. In all it took about 30 minutes to go through all of the commodes in each level, but when all was said and done, the fans said they'd never had more fun flushing toilets over and over.
"I got to flush in the upper level and it was exciting," Tobin said. "The systems worked well."
"I had two urinals and I would say two royal flushes," Hughes added.
"I'm glad that instead of just using regular people they allowed us to get into the Consol Energy Center and help flush before anyone else is getting in here," said Chelsea Davis, a recent high-school graduate from Scott Township who came wearing an "Incredible Malk" T-shirt honoring Evgeni Malkin
that she designed herself. "It has been a great experience."
"We like to give back to the young fans and our season ticket holders whenever we can. Symbolically, because of Student Rush, having the Student Flush event and having them be the first to come into the new building was the right thing to do.." -- Penguins president David Morehouse
Helping the workers of PJ Dick Hunt and McKamish test the water flow was the main focus of Thursday's event, which concluded with pizza and beverages, but it was also a chance for the biggest group of Penguins fans yet to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Consol Energy Center.
There wasn't a person surveyed who wasn't blown away by what they saw.
"I think it is a beautiful arena," Davis said. "I think it is perfect and just what the Penguins deserve. The team is so good -- they deserve to play in a building like this."
"I think just the overall look of Consol Energy Center is a lot more up-to-date," Yanosick added. "The new Jumbotron is unbelievable. This makes me really look forward to the new season starting."
"I would come to every game if I could, but if I am lucky enough to ever have a ticket come my way, I would have no issue whatsoever making the trip down here again," Tobin beamed.