Sunday, May 19, 2013

Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh PA

Basic Information
Team: Pittsburgh Power (Arena Football League)
Game: Power vs Orlando Predators-5/4/2013
Team Website: www.pittsburghpowerfootball.com
Ticket Information: (888) 769-2011 or www.pittsburghpowerfootball.com
Tourism Information: (800) 359-0758 or www.visitpittsburgh.com
Online Broadcasts: www.sportstalk.triblive.com
Local Newspaper: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review www.triblive.com

Team History: The second attempt to bring top-flight indoor football to the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Power were granted an AFL expansion franchise on August 10, 2010, as a group of local businessmen, including former Pittsburgh Steeler great Lynn Swann were awarded one of four expansion franchises for the 2011 season. The Power would be one of the charter tenants in the new Consol Energy Center arena, which opened the previous fall. The Power have had their struggles on the field, winning just 14 games in their first two seasons.

Seating Capacity: The Consol Energy Center has a seating capacity for Power games of 16,280.

How About That Name (And Some History): The $321 million Consol Energy Center was opened on September 21, 2010 with an exhibition game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings. The new arena replaced the venerable Pittsburgh Civic Arena (better known to all as "the Igloo"), which was the home of the Steel City's indoor sports teams since it's opening in 1961. It is believed that the building of the Consol Energy Center was vital to keep the Pens in town, as it was rumored that they were being pursued by Kansas City interests, who looked to purchase the team and move it to the new Sprint Center in KC.

Other Tenants: The NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins are currently the only other full-time tenant at the CEC, however the arena has hosted many major concerts and other events.

Getting There: From Pittsburgh International Airport: Exit the airport, and take I-376 east towards downtown Pittsburgh. Take I-376 to Grant St (exit  71A). After exiting, make a right onto Forbes Ave. Follow for a quarter mile and make a left onto Chatham Square. Follow for a quarter mile to the arena.

On The Town: Known for many years as the "Steel City", the past three decades have seen a renaissance for the city of Pittsburgh. No longer is it just known for smoky iron and steel foundries, Pittsburgh has become a home for high finance, computers, and green technology.

With a population in the metropolitan area of over two million, Pittsburgh is the second largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, and the 22nd largest in the country. Physically, it is located in the western half of Pennsylvania, 300 miles from Philadelphia and 130 miles from Cleveland, and is located on a peninsula at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers.

Originally the home of the Shawnee native tribe, French explorer Robert de la Salle is generally considered to be the first European to visit what is now Pittsburgh. In 1669 while traveling down the Ohio Rover from Canada, de la Salle first mapped out the area. Seventy years later, the French sent another expedition, this time in an effort to unify the French in Canada to their fellow settlers along the Mississippi River.

Naturally, the British in the colonies weren't too thrilled, and they sent General George Washington to tell the French to withdraw. In 1754, the British built Fort Duquesne at the tip of the peninsula. This would be subsequently replaced by a larger fort, named after the British Secretary of State William Pitt. The area would soon be known as Pittsborough, and would be a flashpoint for the French and Indian War.

In 1768, the descendants of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, purchased most of the area owned by the native tribes, and in 1769, the settlement got it's permanent name of Pittsburgh. Both Virginia and Pennsylvania laid claim to the new town, but in 1780, the states agreed to extend the Mason-Dixon line westward, and Pittsburgh officially became part of the Keystone State.

During the early part of the nineteenth century, Pittsburgh became a mecca for manufacturing, as the War of 1812 cut off the importing of steel and iron from Britain. This forced America to start producing their own supplies of these products, and by 1815, Pittsburgh was producing much of America's need for iron, steel, tin, and glass.

In 1901, United States Steel was formed, and during the boom times of the early 20th Century, Pittsburgh would produce up to half of all the nation's steel.

In the 1970's, the city realized that it needed to reinvent itself, and the Renaissance project was born. This effort helped revitalize the run down and older parts of the city. This effort paid off years later as Pittsburgh was named one of the "top cities to live in".

Famous Pittsburgers include: Henry Heinz, founder of the H.J. Heinz Company, Fred Rogers, who for years told children "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood", on his television show "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood", legendary actor/dancer Gene Kelly, and Olympic gold medalist and TNA wrestling star Kurt Angle.

Nearby Airport: Pittsburgh International Airport is approximately 20 miles northwest of the Consol Energy Center.

What To Do Before The Game: Pittsburgh has become a popular tourist destination over the past few years, and with places like the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, Fort Pitt, the Pittsburgh Science Center, Station Square, and others, you'll definitely find something to do during your travels. For more information, contact the Pittsburgh Visitors Bureau for more information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: I wasn't too familiar with the area around the Consol Energy Center before I arrived, so I didn't know what to expect. The area around the arena has several bars and restaurants which might interest you, so I would arrive early and see if anything piques your interest. In addition, there is a TGI Friday's and a Subway on the Fifth Ave side of the arena if you want to play it safe.

Where To Stay: There is just about any kind of hotel or motel you could want in the Pittsburgh area. On this trip, Linda and I stayed at the Red Roof in Monroeville, which was about 15 minutes or so east of the arena. It was clean, comfortable, and fairly inexpensive with several restaurants within 5 minutes of the hotel. For more information, call (800) THE ROOF or visit www.redroof.com.

Ticket Prices: Power tickets run are priced anywhere from $150.00 to $15.00. Linda and I chose the $15.00 seats (naturally), and the seats (end zone) were more than acceptable. I wouldn't worry too  much about buying your tickets through the team's website (which sends you to Ticketmaster). Several ushers gave me the impression that you can walk up and get good seats up to game time.

Parking: There are several lots within a short walk of the arena. We parked at a small street lot five minutes from the arena for ten dollars. The only issue was that only the main box office was open, and that was a hike up a rather steep hill!!

The Good Seats: As I walked around the arena, the first thing that I noticed was that the building was built with hockey in mind, as all of the gray padded seats gave a good view of the ice, which works for arena football as well.

Getting In: The main entrance to the Consol Energy Center is located at the intersection of Washington Pl and Center Ave. This entrance, called the Trib Total Media gate, has the main box office and entry point. After purchasing your ticket and going through security, you ascent one of two escalators, which take you to the concourse level.

Arena Food: Being a still-new NHL quality arena, you would assume that the Consol Energy Center has all the bells and whistles in terms of concessions. Well, you would be right. In addition to the standard arena favorites, the home of the Power has stands with such eclectic choices as sushi, top flight sandwiches, barebecue, and that Pittsburgh staple, Primanti Brothers sandwiches. Well, sadly, for the Power game we attended, all of those were closed. To be honest, with a crowd of maybe two thousand, I could see why.

The good news is that the Power have a promotion with Smith's hot dogs and RD/Seven Up beverages in which Power fans get dollar hot dogs and dollar 12 ounce sodas for the night. Naturally, Linda and I went the cheap route and sampled these offerings. Despite being pre-made, the hot dog was quite tasty and had a nice char. It was served relatively hot and in a relatively fresh bun. I've had some better hot dogs, but for a dollar, it was well worth it. We also sampled the ice cream, which was served in a waffle cone. For five dollars, you got a fairly large serving of soft serve, which I thought was quite good.

Here is a listing of some of the concession prices at the CEC for Power games:

Hot Dog: $1.00   Cheeseburger: $5.00   Nachos: $7.50   Draft Beer: $8.25   Pretzel: $5.50   Souvenir Soda: (comes with 1 refill) $8.00   Ice Cream: (Waffle Cone) $5.00   French Fries: $5.50   Personal Pizza: (Pizza Hut) $9.75

ATM's: There are several First Niagara Bank ATM's located throughout the main concourse.

Souvenirs: The Power have one souvenir table in the main concourse. While the souvenir line isn't exactly huge, the prices are fairly good, with most t-shirts going for about $20.00, and a golf shirt costing $35.00

Restrooms: Large and convenient. All are very clean and in good working order.

Mascot: None

Dance Team: The Sparks dance team not only participate in the in-game entertainment, they also hand out the programs and any promotional giveaways as fans walk into the building.

Program: Every fan receives a complimentary copy of the "Surge", a large format newspaper which contains information on the night's game, the team, and upcoming events.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: As with all new arenas, a large video board is standard equipment, and the CEC is no exception. The large, center hanging scoreboard has four large HD video screens which show all the action as well as pertinent score information. Above and below the main screens are smaller ribbon boards which assist the main board. There are ribbon boards along the fascia of the upper level which also display the pertinent game information. The Power's PA voice is a good one, enthusiastic, but without being a shill. The music selection is good, while leaning a little on the "heavy metal" side, which Linda approved of. I mean, how often do you hear Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" at a sporting event?

Arena Staff: While team staff were non-existent, arena staff were incredibly helpful and friendly. Just about everyone I encountered was more than helpful to answer questions, provide info, or just chew the fat. Before the game, I asked the usher at my section if I could go down to the first row to take some photos of the player introductions. He (I'm sorry I didn't get his name), said "sure, as long as no one is there, go for it".

Atmosphere: Sadly, there wasn't much. Granted, a combination of crowd of around two thousand (and I think that was being generous) and a sub-par effort by the home team didn't exactly make the roof blow off the place, but for most of the night, you could hold a conversation quite easily with the person next to you.

Overall Rating:  The Consol Energy Center is a top-class arena in just about all facets. I'm sure that on a Penguins game night, the place is insane. But, if you still want to experience the CEC, and can't get a Pens ducat, the Power is a great way to spend an inexpensive, low stress night out in the Steel City.