The excitement for CONSOL Energy Center had been building since the Penguins announced plans for a new arena in 2007. Finally, at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, the Penguins took to the ice for their first regular-season game at their new home.
That excitement only rose after the puck dropped, as the fans were on the edge of their seats, cheering every time the Penguins got close to the net. The tension finally broke when Tyler Kennedy
found the back of the net 44 seconds into the third period. The crowd erupted.
Even though the Penguins lost to Philadelphia 3-2, the fans enjoyed opening night.
“This is just awesome,” said Jane Smith, who with her husband, Mark, celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary at the game.
“We were married on October 7, 1977 at 7 p.m., so I was hoping we would score seven goals,” she joked.
They have been season ticket holders for 24 years, and they are huge Mario Lemieux fans. So it was very special when Lemieux christened the new building by pouring water from Civic Arena onto center ice during the pre-game ceremony.
“I loved seeing Mario again,” she said. “I thought it was great when he poured the water, and I was really excited when he dropped the first puck.”
Their seats are in the second row of section 214, and she said she has a much better view at the Civic Arena.
“We absolutely love it here,” she said. “I think they listened to a lot of what we wanted, with the wider hallways and everything.”
They came to two different open houses and both preseason games, so they already had a good feel for the place.
“We knew right where were going, so we have our routine down now,” she said. “This truly is our home away from home.
“And the food is to die for. We got the pulled pork sandwich at the Smokehouse and it was wonderful.”
Bill Coleman and his wife Denise have season tickets in section 112 of the Captain Morgan Club. He said the club level is much better than the Igloo Club in Civic Arena.
“It was like a cave in (the Igloo Club),” Coleman said. “But this is much better and more open.”
Lisa and Jim Lorenzi also have season tickets a few rows behind the penalty box in the Captain Morgan Club. They echoed Coleman’s praise of the new club sections.
“It’s neat to have it open now, instead of being down in a hole,” Jim said. “And it’s so much bigger.”
They said the location of their seats isn’t much different than last year, but the sightline is much better.
“Before, we couldn’t see the far corner through the glass, but now we can see everything,” Jim said.
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The season ticket holders weren’t the only fans present at the historic grand opening of CONSOL Energy Center. Dayton, Ohio resident Adam Verdecchia drove five hours just for a chance to buy tickets.
Verdecchia, a student at Wright State University, has been a Penguins fan his entire life. So when he got a text from the Penguins announcing that 200 student rush tickets were going on sale, he left Ohio at 10 p.m. and got in line outside of the Trib Total Media gate at 2:40 a.m.
“When I saw that there were 200 tickets left, I thought ‘I’m there,’” he said.
Not only did he get tickets to the first-ever regular-season game at CONSOL Energy Center for $25, he also got some free donuts and coffee – from head coach Dan Bylsma.
“He was great,” Verdecchia said. “He didn’t just deliver the donuts, he talked to us too. He was really interested in when we got in line and where we came from.
“It was great to see people who can win a Stanley Cup come out and talk to us like that.”
No, the home team might not have received the outcome everyone desired for the first official home game at CONSOL Energy Center, but it was still “a great day for hockey.”