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Fate of Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena to be decided today

Civic Arena{jathumbnail off}

The Pittsburgh Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) should decide today whether to tear down Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena, and it sounds like a last-minute stab at public support for keeping the historic facility open will come up short.

There’s a lot of passion in some circles to keep the arena open, but the SEA has an agreement to tear down the facility to make way for development per the authority’s deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL). A public-comment period yielded suggestions to turn the arena into a water park, public skating facility, roller-derby rink and more.

Trouble is, it’s easy to throw out ideas on what to put in an empty arena — hotel! amusement park! rock climbing! — but coming up with an economic plan is a whole different matter, and so far there are no developers pitching the SEA and the Penguins with a plan. Indeed, the key to the survival of Civic Arena isn’t necessarily SEA, but rather the Penguins: the Penguins hold development rights to the site, and SEA doesn’t actually have a lot of leeway in deciding to keep Civic Arena if the Penguins are pushing for demolition.

So while we’d love to see the demolition of Civic Arena delayed, we’re not sure it’s in the cards. A real shame: it’s certainly one of the most interesting pieces of architecture ever build, and tearing it down seems a waste.

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