Penguins owner/chairman Mario Lemieux strode across wooden boards place over a dirt surface – a dirt surface that in a year will be transformed into the team’s new ice surface – in the Consol Energy Center.
The Hall of Fame center, sporting a suit and hardhat with the Penguins emblem, stopped by a gold steel beam that featured the signatures of every Penguins employee and Mellon Arena worker. Lemieux, armed with a black sharpie, added the final signature. The arena construction workers raised the beam high into the roof and secured it into position.
Then it was time for the final “steel” piece of the puzzle in a ceremonial “topping off” of the city’s brand-new state-of-the-art facility. Another beam – this one with the signatures of all the construction workers – was raised and put into place in the roof. This steel beam represented the final piece of structural steel to be placed into the new arena.
The workers here have done a tremendous job in putting up this building. It’s very exciting to see the progress made over the last year. - Mario Lemieux
“It’s been a long 10 years to get to where we are today but this is special for all of us,” Lemieux said. “The workers here have done a tremendous job in putting up this building. It’s very exciting to see the progress made over the last year.”
“Today is really a day to salute and say thanks to the people who have actually worked on this job for the last year, and will be working going forward,” Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer said. “On behalf of the Penguins, thanks to all of you here. I can’t believe the progress on this site. We’re very, very excited for this to open a year from now.”
The Consol Energy Center, which is scheduled to open for the 2010-11 NHL season, was “topped off” just one day shy of the first anniversary of the initial groundbreaking. Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl joined Lemieux, Sawyer, Penguins employees and the hundreds of construction workers for the festivities.
Placed on top of the final beam in a symbolic gesture were an American flag, a Penguins flag, an evergreen tree and a broom. Every “topping off” beam in the United States features an American flag in honor the country. The evergreen tree represents a job well done, growth, prosperity and good luck in the future. The broom represents a “clean” finish – that the project process is coming to a close without any loss of life.
“We’ve been working on this budget for the last nine years and (the new arena) was the last piece of our plan,” Sawyer said. “We wanted to build a foundation for the team and for the city that would keep the team here and keep them competitive.
It’s a dream to have all these pieces come together. I’m just in awe of the complexity of the construction coordination. We’re really excited because this arena will be exceptional for fan experience. - Ken Sawyer
“It’s a dream to have all these pieces come together. I’m just in awe of the complexity of the construction coordination. We’re really excited because this arena will be exceptional for fan experience.”
The new arena will feature state-of-the-art amenities for fans, including the first full HD scoreboard, top-notch sound system and lightning, great sight lines and more seat room.
The arena consists of over 7,000 tons of steel and 8,000 pieces. The construction team began erecting the steel structure on Dec. 17 and completed the project in less than eight months.
“I really do believe that we have the best trade workers in the state and in any part of the country,” Onorato said. “Congratulations on how fast you put this up, on time, on budget and the best quality. You guys do a great job.”
Over the next few months, the team will work on completely closing in the structure. Once the building is closed and protected from weather, the heavy inside work will begin. Then the only remaining element will be opening day of the new Consol Energy Center in fall of 2010.
“Everybody is looking forward to the day that we open up,” Lemieux said. “It should be a special moment, just like it is (Thursday).”
“This is a big milestone for us,” Sawyer said. “Two years ago we worked out a deal with the city, county and state for the financing of this arena. A year ago we broke ground. Today we have this milestone. The next milestone is opening day about a year from now.”