The Sports & Exhibition Authority is recommending that Mellon Arena, the former home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, be torn down to make way for a housing and retail development, but preservationists are crying foul.
In a draft recommendation, the authority — a city/county entity whose members are appointed by the mayor and Allegheny County — says the mixed-use development is the best use of the site when looked at from a financial viewpoint. The Penguins hold development rights to the 28-acre site and have been pushing the redevelopment.
Preservationists say the process is being rushed: it’s not as though there’s a huge need for more retail and housing in Pittsburgh, and no one has seriously explored alternative uses for the arena. Folks from Preservation Pittsburgh and ReUse the Igloo say they’ll present an alternative site plan by next month.
Still, the economic reality is that it will be hard to justify two major arenas in Uptown. The majority of bigger acts will want to play Consol Energy Center, and the track record for renovating older arenas is pretty bad. Portland grappled with the same issue before preservationists carried the day; let’s hope Pittsburgh preservationists can do the same. Given that Mellon Arena is one of the most unique arenas ever built, with a funky roof that opens, coming up with an imaginative reuse shouldn’t be that difficult.