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Decision on Civic Arena future due Thursday

Civic Arena

The future of Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena should be decided Thursday when the City-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) decides whether to tear down the historic facility.

The arena’s run as a distinctive feature on the Pittsburgh skyline could end if the SEA agrees with a commissioned study that indicates the public would be better served with a demolished arena site ready-made for development. Civic Arena, which opened in 1962 as the home of the Pittsburgh Civic Opera, is perhaps the most unique arena ever built, with a retractable roof and an unusual circular design.

Preservationists have opposed the arena’s demolition, arguing that it can be reused effectively with a mix of special events, a 24-lane bowling alley, bicycle polo and more. These events, according to the Reuse the Igloo group, are fully capable of generating $2 million annually in profits — enough to cover the $1.9 million needed to run the building (not counting the $14 million needed to convert the building, of cours).

But, of course, there are politics galore. A demolition accomplishes two things: it lets the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL) exercise their development rights to the land, and it eliminates any competition at all for Consol Energy Center, though the Reuse the Igloo folks have wisely positioned their plan to minimize any possible conflicts in terms of events and offerings. 

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