Penguins’ season ticket holders had their first chance to visit CONSOL Energy Center on Saturday afternoon as the team hosted an open house at its new arena. Needless to say, fans were blown away by all of the sparkling amenities which are going to make CONSOL Energy Center one of the top arenas in the National Hockey League.
“This place just exceeded my expectations,” said Nick Simakas, a season ticket holder since 2006. “I had expectations coming in, and it went way above that.”
“I was impressed,” added Pat Benko, who has been a STH since 1991. “This place was everything I thought it would be and more.”
Between the open concourses, 800 televisions, an enhanced team store and an improved concession menu, there is plenty for fans to be impressed with. That said, before they could check out CONSOL’s many sightlines and features, most fans had to go and sit in their seats.
“Our seat location is outstanding,” Mark Adams said. “I told my buddy Joe (Klass) that the view is even better than I expected. We are right down in the front. It looks like there aren’t too many bad seats in the house.”
“We are right behind the net off to the side a bit, which I am pleased with,” Klass agreed. “We definitely got a good draw.”
While Klass gave his approval of the wide concourses on both the main and upper levels of CONSOL Energy Center which will allow fans to continue following the action while they go for food or use the restroom, Adams couldn’t get over the video screen on the jumbotron.
“The video screen just blows me away,” Admas said. “The clarity of it, the size of it – you just go WOW when you see it.”
Fans are also going to say “WOW” when they go to visit the arena concession stands. In addition to traditional favorites such as nachos, hot dogs, French fries and pretzels, fans are now going to have plenty of additional choices such as kielbasa grinders, Primanti Brothers sandwiches, pulled pork and a chef-attended carvery station.
“It’s impressive the amount of food selection they have here,” Daryl Sherred said. “We had to go down two levels to get the specific food or drink we wanted at Mellon Arena. Now everything is right here at your finger tips within 20 yards.”
Another favorite on Saturday afternoon was the Highmark Kids’ Zone, located behind the Captain Morgan Club, where parents are going to be able to take their children to participate in interactive games, take pictures and even shoot at a replica Sidney Crosby
Ben Dripps and his son, Connor, spent time in the Highmark Kids’ Zone, where they had a blast bowling on a Nintendo Wii gaming console and shooting at Crosby’s dryer.
“I really enjoyed shooting into the dryer,” Connor Dripps said. “I liked how it was all marked up from pucks. I also liked bowling because I rolled a strike.”
Speaking of the Captain Morgan Club – one of two such clubs along the main concourse along with the First Niagara Club – Samantha Henton, whose father has been a season ticket holder for five years, and her friend Laura Macioce, enjoyed the views the clubs will offer.
“It’s so close when you are sitting right there,” Macioce said. “There’s also a lot of room in the club to move around even with all the tables and the bar.”
“I like that you can sit at the counter and eat your food, yet still see the game,” Henton said.
Finally, the area of the arena where fans seemed to be drawn the longest was the Trib Total Media All-Time Team display located across from “PensGear” near the Trib Total Media entrance. You couldn’t walk by the Penguins’ interactive Hall of Fame exhibit and not find dozens of fans reliving the team’s impressive history.
“I got goose bumps standing here and watching all of the old highlights,” Sherred said. “I can remember being in the (Mellon) Arena when many of them happened. I really enjoyed standing here and being able to flip through the highlights and bios of all of the players. I thought this was a great way to conclude an awesome tour of this amazing facility.”