Civic Arena

Iconic Dome of Rock and Roll on the Hill
The Civic Arena was an iconic structure of the Pittsburgh skyline that hosted the iconic bands of arena rock. Like Seattle's Space Needle and St. Louis's Gateway Arch the Civic Arena was a signature landmark.  The flying saucer shaped shiny steel domed arena on its opening in 1961 was the world’s first major entertainment venue with a retractable roof.  Architectural historian Franklin Toker called it a "brilliant achievement of twentieth-century engineering".  The 300 ton dome opened in 2.5 minutes to reveal Pittsburgh's clear smoke free skyline of sleek modern glass and steel office towers.  Its unique innovative architecture showcased Pittsburgh’s rebirth from its “Smoke Town” image.  It signaled the world that Pittsburgh was no longer the polluted "hell with the lid off" but a city with a skyline to be seen.

Pittsburgh’s civic leaders originally conceived the Civic Arena as an indoor / outdoor venue to host musicals and concerts. Built on the slopes above the downtown it was to be the centerpiece of a 100 acre “Cultural Acropolis” with concert halls, a museum, and a convention center. The Lower Hill District, an historic multi-ethnic melting pot neighborhood that was the center of a vibrant jazz scene, was completely demolished to make way for higher culture. 

The Civic Arena served its mission well as a music venue hosting over 800 major concerts.  During the 50 year history of the Civic Arena Pittsburghers rocked to the sounds of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Rush, the Who, Yes, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Van Halen and many more rock superstars.  James Brown, The Temptations, the Supremes, Steve Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson brought Motown soul to the Igloo.  The voices of Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti, Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Whitney Houston, Dionne Warrick and other superstar vocalists filled the dome.  It also hosted the Civic Light Opera and the PSO Promenade series. As the birthplace of the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival the arena hosted jazz greats Miles Davis, Theolonius Monk, John Coltrane, Dizzie Gillespie, Earl Hines, Duke Ellington and more. Those music superstars and Pittsburgh's music fans made the Civic Arena one of the Top Ten U.S. concert venues in ticket sales revenue during the 1970s and 1980s.  

The architects expanded the Civic Arena’s original design beyond music to host sporting events. The Civic / Mellon Arena was the home of the Calder Cup champs the Pittsburgh Hornets, the ABA champs the Pipers, and the Stanley Cup hockey champs the Pittsburgh Penguins along with indoor professional soccer, tennis, lacrosse and football teams. The Civic Arena hosted college basketball, professional wrestling, boxing, ice skating and circuses. Over 7,000 events were held at the Civic Arena during its 50 year history.

Other than the Washington Plaza Apartments, the rest of “Cultural Acropolis” was never built.  The Civic Arena was surrounded by empty promises and a sea of parking lots.  But for 50 years it was the center for Pittsburgh's major concerts and professional hockey.  Seeking higher revenue from fancy luxury boxes and banquet rooms the Pittsburgh Penguins demanded a new arena be built or they would move to Kansas City.  The domed arena was doomed for destruction in 2010 with the opening of the slightly larger Console Center.  The wreckage of the iconic Civic Arena was tossed into the mountainous rubble of discarded Pittsburgh music venues that include the great jazz clubs of the Hill. 

Judy Garland to James Taylor - 50 Years of Music

The Civic Arena opened on September 17, 1961 with a symphonic concert by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony. After an extended run of the Ice Capades and the Pittsburgh Home Show t
he first ever pop music concert held at the Arena was an appearance by singer Judy Garland on Oct. 19, 1961. Her moving performance held the audience in a spell.  Judy sang her hits  'Bells are Ringing,' 'Stormy Weather,' 'Man That Got Away,' 'San Francisco,' 'Come Rain or Come Shine'.and did six encores, the last 2 with the houselights on.   Drawing 12,325 fan its was the first sell out at the arena and grossed $58,523.  

Pittsburgh Press writer Barbara Cloud wrote glowingly of Garland's performance. "She creates the magic which is what entertainment is all about and yet you can not pinpoint just exactly why it is that she manages to pull you in from the audience as a bee to honey, as puppets in her hand and she controls the strings....the audience was in love with the singer who cavorted on stage. ... Miss Garland does cavort, you see. It isn't simply a matter of singing a song, which she does like no one else I can think of. ...She sang 'Over the Rainbow' as her last number . . . supposedly. But the audience stood up and cheered and screamed for more ....She came back six times, four of those times she simply walked around the stage like a child and threw kisses to the audience, most of them already standing with coats in hand, realizing the show was over but reluctant to leave for fear of missing something. She did sing two more numbers, 'Swanee' and 'Chicago,' and they did turn on the lights, which probably brought more applause than any song she sang all evening. Now they could see her. Now they could believe her.'

Doo Wop and Early Rock N Roll Shows

During the early 1960's the popular musicians to play the arena were Doo Wop acts, vocal groups, R&B stars and early rock n' rollers. The first Rock and Roll show at the Civic arena was held on Oct 20, 1961 featuring Fats Domino, Brenda Lee Jay T. Reid, the Casuals, Bob Beckhams and the La Rells.  The La Rells were the first Pittsburgh group to perform at the arena.  Clark Race of KDKA radio was the emcee and the Gi Gi Grene Orchestra backed the bands.

The next Doo Wop show was a whooper.  WAMO DJ Porky Checkwick emceed the Porky Chedwick Groove Spectacular on May 11, 1962. The day long concert featured Jackie Wilson, The Drifters, The Coasters, The Castelles, Jerry Butler, The Flamingos, The Angels, Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles, the Skylinersthe Five Satins, Ketty Lester, Johnny Jack, Bobby Vinton, the Debonaires, Gene Pitney, the Jive Five, the Carousels, Big Mabelle, the Shirells and Hank Nalland.   Several of the acts performed for free in appreciation for Porky's promotion of their music. The sold out show drew 13,000 who paid $1 to $4 for tickets.  Another 3,000 people outside who were turned away angrily threw rocks and bottles.

Performing on March 9, 1963 the Temptations were the first vocal soul group to appear at the arena.  The Doo Wop Era shows continued at the arena with the KQV Shower of Stars on June 14, 1963 featuring Dion, The Chiffons, The Shirelles, Freddy Cannon, The Impressions, and Pittsburgh's Marcy Jo Tropay.  The KQV Christmas Shower of Stars on December 28, 1964 set an attendance record with Roy Orbison, Jackie Wilson, and the Shangri-Las. The 1965 KQV Summer Shower of Stars featured Gene Pitney, Gary Lewis, Dobie Gray, The Hullabaloos, Brian Hyland, Bobby Goldsboro, The Crystals, and The Reflections.

British Invasion
Beatles Concert Civic Arena Sept 14, 1964
Doo Wop faded away and the British Invasion era began with Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan on February 9, 1964.  The first of 
the British Invasion bands to appear at the Civic Arena was the Dave Clark Five on June 5, 1964.  The Beatles appeared in front of 12,603 screaming fans at arena on Sept 14, 1964.  Four thousand fans greeted the Beatles at the Pittsburgh airport.  In a pre-show press conference the Beatles were asked.  "Gentlemen, I would like your reaction to the Civic Arena in which we're located. Did you see the outside?" BEATLES: "Yeah!" GEORGE: "Is this the place that can be changed into an open-air?" JOHN: "Very good. Good idea, that. I hope they don't lift the roof while we're playing." 

The Rolling Stones made the first of their arena appearances on Nov. 24, 1965 at the KQV Thanksgiving Shower of Stars in front of 9.131 fans.  Also on the bill were the Byrds, Bo Didley, The Virations, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Simon and Garfunkle. The Stones returned on June 26, 1966 with Pittsburgh's Fantastic Dee Jays as an opening act.  Herman's Hermits and the Animals touring together invaded Pittsburgh on August 8, 1966 and returned on September 3 1967.  The Yardbirds with Eric Clapton appeared on the bill at the KQV Christmas Shower of Stars with the The Four Seasons, Chuck Berry, Little Anthony & Imperials, Sam The Sham, Simon and Garfunkel, Maxine Brown, Lou Christie, Thunderballs, Mitch Ryder & Detroit Wheels.  The Yardbirds returned on November 23, 1966 opening for Sonny and Cher.  

Civic Light Opera Offers Musicals Under the Skyline

The Civic Light Opera (CLO) for whom the arena was designed opened its first season in the summer of 1962.  The CLO Stage arose from the west side seats of the arena. The CLO set up allowed for 6,600 seats on the floor and east side seats.  The roof was opened during intermission, weather permitting.  Each musical and performer appeared for a seven day run.  
Television star Carol Burrnet appeared at the first CLO show at the arena on July 4, 1962.  As the doom opened Carol announced  'Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present... THE SKY!' "  The CLO also presented Jerry Lewis, Harry Belafonte and the musicals "Can Can", "Fanny", "Gypsy", "Oklahoma", "Song of Norway", and "Flower Drum Song" in 1962.

The CLO presented shows at the Civic Arena for eight summers producing the classic musicals Music Man, South Pacific, Oliver, West Side Story, the King and I, Guys and Dolls, Camelot, Show Boat, Porky and Bess, 
How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Bye Bye Birdie, Funny Girl, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and more.  They also presented Nat King Cole, Jack Benny, Robert Goulet, Arhtur Godfrey, Rowan & Martin, and the Sid Caesar & Imogene Coca Show.  In September of 1963 s Pittsburgh Press music critic Carl Apone wrote "The arena made Downtown Pittsburgh a center of summer entertainment and enabled the CLO to develop an audience in a 100-mile radius of the city."

Piano man Liberace did six straight nights in 1967 from August 8 to September 2. When the arena roof opened up for one show Liberace stopped his playing and said "I've never seen a more beautiful sight in my life".

Mary Lou Williams Founds the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival at the Civic Arena

Renown jazz pianist / arranger Mary Lou Williams founded the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival in 1964 and served as its director for three years.  Walt Harper succeeded Williams as executive director.  The concerts were booked by George Wein who founded and produced the Newport Jazz Festival.  The annual festival was held at the Civic Arena in 1964, 1965, 1968, 1970, and 1972.  A crowd of 5,500 attended the first night of inaugural festival held at the Civic Arena on June 19 and 20 1964.  On Friday June 19 Dakota Staton, Art Blakey, the Thelonious Monk Quartet, the Mary Lou Williams Trio, Walt Harper's Quartet, Blakey Sextion, and singer Joe Williams performed.  The Saturday June 20 show starred Sarah Vaughan, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Harold Betters Quartet, the Jimmy Smith Trio and the Bernice Johnson Dancers.  The arena's new $20,000 sound system delivered the music loud and evenly.  The two day festival drew 13,000 jazz fans.

The 1965 festival  3 day affair held from Friday June 18 to Sunday June 20th was an historic jazz concert that featured an all star line up of jazz superstars. On Friday night Count Basie, Miles Davis, the Stan Getz Quartet, and Thelonius Monk performed. The Stan Getz Quartet included Gary Burton and Steve Swallow.  John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, Earl Hines, Carmen McRae, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Mary Lou Williams appeared on Saturday. Joining Duke Ellington onstage was the composer of "Take the A Train" Pittsburgh's Billy Strayhorn. John Coltrane’s Quartet included McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones. On Sunday evening June 20 Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Pittsburgh's piano master Ahmad Jamal and Muddy Waters performed.  On Sunday afternoon June 20th a piano jazz workshop was held featuring the greats of piano jazz Earl Hines, Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Taylor, Pittsburgh's Charles Bell and Willie "The Loin' Smith. Ellington and Hines teamed up for the song "House of Lords". The workshop closed with a version of "Rosetta" played by Hines, Smith, Williams, Taylor and George Wein sharing two pianos. A live recording of the entire piano workshop entitled "The Jazz Piano" was released by RCA on vinyl with 10 tracks in 1965 and reissued with 19 tracks of the entire concert on CD by Mosaic Records

 The 1966 festival held on July 2, 3, and 4 moved to Point State Park for shows starring Dizzy Gillespe, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz.

The jazz festival returned to the Civic Arena in 1968 on June 22 with Walt Harper and Ray Charles. On Sunday June 23, 1968 8,000 jazz fans turned out to see Dionne Warrick, Cannonball Aderly, Gary Burton, Herbie Mann, Hugh Masekela and Theolonius Monk.  The 1970 festival featured on Sundary June 21 the Thad Jone-Mel Lewis Band, Eric Kloss, Frank Cunimundo, Walt Harper, Miles Davis, Joe Williams, and Ramsey Lewis.  The 1972 festival was another incredible line up with Buddy Rich, Carmen McRae, Cannonball Adderly, the Billy Trio and the Silhouettes and Saturday June 17. On Sunday June 18 B.B. King, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Mann, Walt Harper, Dizzie Gillespie and legendary trumpeter Roy Eldrige appeared. The 1973 Pittsburgh Jazz Festival was held at Three Rivers Stadium starring 1973 Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles B.B. King and Charles Mingus.  The Festival was renamed the Kool Jazz Festival in 1982 and moved to Heinz Hall.  Mellon Bank was the sponsor of the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival for 16 years from 1986 to 2002.

Bye Bye CLO 

To support both large scale sports and music events compromises where made in the design of the arena seating and the CLO stage.  Rather than having a permanent traditional auditorium loft stage with a hard shell to project sound, a collapsible stage that was stored u
nder the West side seats was built.  For sporting events the main hockey floor was surrounded by bowl configuration seating.  With the stage collapsed 6,000 additional West side seats were available for sporting events.  For musicals and concerts all seats faced the center stage auditorium style.  Seats were placed on downward sloping risers on the arena floor. Two hydraulic jacks lifted the West side seats to expose the proscenium stage and an arch from which draperies and scrims were hung.  The compromised design provided an open stage that was inadequate for musicals and symphony concerts.

Traditional theater stages have a loft to hold "flying" scenery that can be lowered and raised.  Being collapsible the CLO stage could not have a loft.  The CLO lost potential revenue as popular touring Broadway shows would not appear at the arena because the stage lacked a loft and was too small.  With the roof open winds rocked the scenery and patrons complained that they could not hear or see the performers.  After the end of the 1964 season the CLO lost more than $100,000 due to the high rent costs and less than expected ticket sales. In 1966 the CLO only sold 40% of its capacity.  The CLO did not want a high rent 6,000 seat venue that did not support flying scenery.  Bleeding money the CLO's last show at the Civic Arena was "How Now, Dow Jones" staring Tony Randall on July 26, 1969. The CLO abandoned its all weather home to move to the 2,670 seat Heinz Hall in downtown Pittsburgh in 1971.  

Pittsburgh Symphony Promenade Series 

During the 1960s the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony was the non-air conditioned Syria Mosque. The PSO moved its summer programming to the air conditioned Civic Arena. But classical performers were extremely unhappy with the acoustics of the Arena.  Leonard Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic at the arena in July of 1963.  After the concert Bernstein the told the Pittsburgh Press "It is impossible to play without a shell on stage.  The music is wasted.  There is no projection. This is my first and last concert in the arena."  Traditional outdoor classical music venues like the Hollywood Bowl have a band shell that projects the sound into the audience. The open collapsible CLO stage did not have a band shell to focus the sound of orchestras.  Music echoed from the roof when the dome was closed and the orchestra could barely be heard when it was open.  A $19,600 fiberglass music shell was purchased in April of 1964.  Performing Handel's Messiah the PSO played under the music shell for the first time on December 8, 1964.       

Arthur Fielder and Henry Mancini conducted the PSO in Pops concerts in 1965.  The PSO offered its weekly summer 
Promenade concert series at the arena from 1966 to 1971. Patrons could purchase seats at tables on the arena floor for a picnic atmosphere.  The June 10-27 1969 series featured concerts with Doc Severinsen, Marilyn Maye, Jose Feliciano, The Four Freshman, Ballet Night, and Rodgers and Hammerstein Night.  The 1970 Promenade concerts ran from May 26 through June 12th with performances by Henry Mancini, Ferrante and Teicher, Roberta Flack, Chet Atkins, an evening of ballet, a night of New York Metropolitan Opera stars, and Ella Firzgerald.  The 1971 series starred Roberta Peters, Victor Borge, Phylis Diller, Jose Feliciano, and Ella Fitzgerald.  The PSO moved its Promenade Pops Series to Heinz Hall in 1972.

The Public Auditorium Authority had to find new tenants to replace the CLO and the PSO Promenade series.  Despite losing two anchor tenants, having poor acoustics, and a non standard stage, the Civic arena thrived as a one of the country's top music venue due to powerful amplification, its size, and the growth of arena rock.

Classic Arena Rock Makes the Civic Arena a Top Ten U.S. Venue

In the Doo Wop and British Invasion era bands sang through tinny sounding pubic address systems of the arenas and used small amplifiers for their instruments. The bands could barely be heard over the screams of thousands of crazed fans. According to the Guardian Newspaper the "Arena Rock" area began with the Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour when they employed large scale lighting and sound systems allowing them to be be seen and heard in the biggest arenas. Powerful amplification was used to overcome the Civic Arena's acoustic problems.  Use of the CLO stage was discontinued as the sports configuration provided a 13,000 seat capacity needed for larger concerts.  A temporary stage was set up on one end of the arena for concerts. As the size of rock concert audiences and the number of touring arena bands grew in the late 1960s and 1970s the Civic Arena became one of the country's premiere venues. Billboard Magazine named it number 9 in the top 10 grossing venues the U.S. on December 30, 1976.

Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, and Glam Rock fans flocked to the Civic Arena to see Led Zepplelin, the Who, Aerosmith, Rush, Van Halen, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Def Lepard, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, Stephen Wolf, Fog Hat, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, KISS, Ace Frehley, Ozzie Osbourne, Megadeath, Queensryche, Uriah Heap, Mahogany Rush, Twisted Sister, Poison, Billy Squire, Black Foot, Whiresnake, Dokken, Dio, Motley Crew, Anthrax, Humble Pie, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynrd, Johnny Van Zant, Molley Hatchet, the Outlaws, Scorpians, and Metallica. 

Led Zeppelin made four appearances at the arena beginning in March of 1970 and at back to back sold out shows in 1977. Page and Plant returned to the arena in 1995 on their "Unledded Tour" with Pittsburgh's Rusted Root opening the show and again in 1998.  Aerosmith, a fan favorite, appeared 15 times from 1975 through 2005. The Canadian rockers Rush performed at the arena 13 times making their first appearance in August of 1974 opening for Uriah Heap. Van Halen made 8 appearances,.ZZ Top made 7, Black Sabbath and Ozzie Osborne played the arena 7 times and KISS brought their show 6 times.  

The melodic ballad singing classic rock bands who were played in heavy rotation on WDVE were favorites of Civic Arena rock fandom including Journey, Foreigner, Queen, Bon Jovi, Heart, Styx, 
Loverboy, REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger, Asia, Supertramp, .38 Special, Sammy Hagar, Bad Company, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Michael Stanley Band, and the Little River Band.  Bon Jovi made 8 appearances.  Pop rock superstars Fleetwood Mac appeared 5 times.  Blood Sweat and Tears,Chicago, the Guess Who, and the Doors also brought melodic pop rock to the arena.

Progressive rock was another fan favorite with the band Yes making 10 arena appearances along with concerts by Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Frank Zappa, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Electric Light Orchestra, Kansas, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, Manford Mann, and the Moody Blues. Pink Floyd performed one of the epic concerts at the arena on July 19, 1973.  As they were playing "Dark Side of the Moon" the arena's dome quietly opened up to reveal a moonlit sky. 

Country Rock influenced hippy bands who entertained Pittsburghers at the arena were the Eagles, the Grateful Dead, Poco, Pure Prairie League, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Jefferson Starship, the Allman 
Brothers, Jackson Brown, Linda Rondstat, the Marshal Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, Dan Fogelberg, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  CSNY, playing together for the first time in 25 years, blew the roof off the arena in March of 2002 ending their show with Neil Young leading a full throttle guitar jam on his "Rockin in the Free World."  The Grateful Dead appeared eight times.  The Folk influenced artists who headlined at the arena included Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle, Joni Mitchell, Seals & Crofts, and Bob Denver.  Jam band kings Phish made two appearances at the arena. 

In the new wave era the Police, U2, the Cars, Duran Duran, the Fixx, Flock of Seagulls, Depeche Mode, the Thompson Twins, The Cure, Men at Work, the Bangles, Cyndi Lauper, Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order, the Kinks, Cheap Trick, and INXS brought their shows to the arena.

Grunge bands Pearl Jam, Guns N Roses, Stone Temple Pilots and Everclear along iwht alternative metal bands Pantera, Korn, Slipnot, Blink-182, Krokus, Limbizkit, Tool, Weezer, Janes Addiction, Staind, Orgy, System of a Down, and Marilyn Manson appeared at the arena in 1990s and early 21st century. Alternative bands the Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Rusted Root, Bare Naked Ladies, Sonic Youth, and Matchbox 20 were also heard at the Igloo.

The male rock singers who packed the dome were led by Bruce Springsteen who appeared 15 times.  Bruce welcomed his friend Joe Grushecky to perform with him at many of those shows.   Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, David Bowie, 
Rod Steward, Tom Petty, Elton John, Billy Joel, Kenny Logins, Huey Lewis, Bryan Adams, Rick Springfield, Meat Loaf, John Cafferty, David Johansen, and Donnie Iris also appeared. Multi-genre singer Prince made 4 appearances at the dome.

Motown, R&B, and funk artists who brought soul to the Igloo include Steve Wonder, James Brown, Luther Vandross the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, the Temptations, the Supremes, Earth Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye, the O'Jays, Jackie Wilson, Teddy Pendergrass, The Four Tops, The Spinners, The Ohio Players, Isley Brothers, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Con Funkshun, Maxwell, Rick James, the Time, Cameo, and the Commodores.  The Jackson Five concert on July 19, 1974 was stopped after the first song as the general admission fans on the floor pressed tightly against the stage.  After a 15 minute delay during which the crowd was took their seats the Jackson returned for a 45 minute show.  Blue eyed soul bands also played the arena including the Average White Band, Wild Cherry, the Doobie Brothers and Hall & Oates.  Disco stars the Village People sang their classic YMCA.

Among the male pop singers and vocal groups who graced the stage of the arena were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Tom Jones, Ray Charles, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Harry Belafonte, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, the Beach Boys, the Neville Brothers, the Bee Gees, and 
Tony Orlando and Dawn.  Perry Como's Oct. 3, 1963 arena concert was broadcast nationally on NBC-TV.  

The Pop Divas who dominated the arena stage were Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Dionne Warrick, Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion, Ella Fitzgerald,  Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner, Patti Labell, Oliva Newtown John, Amy Grant, Gloria Gaynor, Stevie Nicks, Sarah McLachlan, Pat Benatar, Tori Amos, Gloria Estefan, Britney Spears, and Cher.  The Miley Cyrus concert on January 4th 2008, which sold out in jist 10 minutes, was the fastest sellout in arena history. 

The Civic Arena played host to country stars Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Alabama, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Shania Twain, Reba Mcentire, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dilbert McClinton, Mickey Gilly, Buck Owens, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lone Justice, and Kelly Clarkson.  Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter set the first country music attendance record at the arena attracting 13,076 fans on April 29 1971.

Record Setting Shows

Elvis Presley drew 16,400 fans to the arena for a New Year Eve concert on December 31, 1976 just a few months before his death at age 42.  The Michael Jackson "Bad Tour" sold out three straight nights in September of 1988.  Paul McCartney returned without the Beatles to Pittsburgh for two sold out shows on February 3rd and 4th of 1990.  After the 1993 expansion of the arena's seating capacity Jimmy Page and Robert Plant set the all time Civic Arena concert attendance record drawing 17,764 fans for their appearance on March 25 1995.  Crossover country star Garth Booths sold out six straight days at the arena drawing over 100,000 fans from October 13 through 18 of 1997.  The Rolling Stones show on March 11, 1998 was the biggest grossing event in Civic Arena history drawing 17,500 people with tickets selling at a maximum of $250.  The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was joined in concert by two thousand  child musicians to break the Guinness Book record for the world's largest orchestra on April 19, 1998.  The orchestra was comprised of 1,252 string players, 500 woodwinds, and 250 percussionists for a world record total of 2,149 members.  The record for most performances at the arena is held by Neil Diamond who made 18 appearances.  

Infamous Concerts.
Vandalism erupted in downtown Pittsburgh on June 28, 1986 after a concert by Run DMC and LL Cool J J at the Civic Arena.  Hundreds of fans ran out of the arena screaming.  Windows were smashed at eight downtown stores. Police arrested 16 
adults and 11 juveniles and another 22 were injured.  Run DMC's provocative lyrics were blamed.  Mayor Caliguiri threatened to ban all concerts. 

After trouble at the April 3, 1989 Grateful Dead concert, Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff declared.  "I don't want those deadenders ever back again.  This group is fine, but those people who follow them around are not."  A riot erupted during the second day of two sold out shows. Five hundred deadheads without tickets tried to force their way into arena. Rocks and bottles were thrown at the 60 police who intervened.  Ten people were injured and 21 were arrested. Sophie made the national news when she referred to the Grafeful Dead as the "Dreadful Dead" and when she called Springsteen "Bruce Bedspring".

On July 9, 1989 the Budweiser Superfest concert was cancelled after the crew members of the Group Guy attacked two crew members of the New Edition with baseball bats.  One of the New Edition Crew members suffered a broken jaw and cheek. The production manager of New Edition wielding a gun chased the Guy crew members out of the arena and fired shots.  The security chief for Guy, who was shot twice in the back, died in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel.  The New Edition production manager was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

Skyline Series
To make use of its unique retractable roof the Civic Arena initiated the Skyline summer concert series in 1987. Inspired by Atlanta's Chastain Park summer concert series, the arena's GM Tom Rooney initiated the Skyline series. In response to the growing outdoor amphitheater industry, the arena tried to hold off competition. A five show under the stars subscription series was offered. Performing for the 1987 season were the Beach Boys, Moody Blues, Dan Fogelberg, Kenny Loggins and Tommy James the Shondels. Weather permitting the roof was opened for concerts under the Pittsburgh Skyline. Patrons who purchased seats at the white-linen covered picnic tables on the arena floor could bring or buy picnic baskets. The package was priced at $77 for regular seats and $100 for the picnic table seats which quickly sold out. Lance Jones who worked in booking and marketing at the arena wrote about the Skyline series in his Musicasaurus blog:

"Every night of that 1987-1989 Skyline Series, we essentially experienced a grand opening--the roof peeled back to reveal the wondrous Pittsburgh skyline, with the audience enrapt and the artists themselves gaping upward, almost missing musical cues due to the unfolding splendor above."

Artists who appeared during the 1988 and 1989 seasons included The Monkees, Hall & Oates, Chicago, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, The Dirty Dancing Tour with Bill Medley, Stevie Nicks, Boz Scaggs, The Doobie Brothers, and "The 20th Anniversary Celebration Tour of Woodstock” with Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Country Joe and Canned Heat. With the opening of the competing Star Lake Amphitheater in 1990, the Civic Arena discontinued the Skyline series.  Tom Rooney left the arena to become GM of Star Lake and oversaw its construction.  Lance Jones joined the staff of Star Lake a year after its opening.  The bulk of the large show concert business shifted to the Star Lake Amphitheater / Post Gazette Pavilion in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Pittsburgh Rockers Come to Aid of Katrina Victims
On September 22, 2005 several Pittsburgh bands joined forces to raise $100,000 to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  The concert titled P.L.E.A.S.E. (Pittsburgh Lends Emergency Savings and Effort) featured Rusted Root, Donnie Iris, Joe Grushecky, B.E. Taylor, Bill Deasy, Good Brother Earl, Margot B, and the Poverty Neck Hillbillies. 

Live Albums Recorded at the Civic Arena

Seven concerts recorded at the Civic Arena were released as live albums.  The first Civic Arena live recording album was the 1965 release from the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival of "The Jazz Piano" on RCA.  It was reissued with more tracks on CD by  CD by Mosaic Records. Recordings of the Doors May 2, 1970 Civic Arena concert were released on two albums.  Three songs from the show were released in July of 1970 on the "Absolutely Live Album".  "The Doors Live in Pittsburgh 1970" is a 16 song CD released in 2004.  
Elvis Presley's December 31, 1976 New Years Eve concert was released as the "Elvis: New Years Eve" CD.  The Grateful Dead released recordings of their April 2–3, 1989 Civic Arena concerts as the , were "Download Series Volume 9"  Loverboy released the live Civic Arena recording of their song "Lovin' Every Minute Of it" and their 2011 "Very Best of Loverboy Live" album.

Final Concert

James Taylor and Carol King closed 50 years of music with the final event at the Civic Arena on .June 26, 2010. 
The two singer song writing superstars sang together for the first time since their joint 1971 tour. They appeared together at the Civic Arena on February 26, 1971.  Sharing the stage their performed their all time hits "
So Far Away", "Natural Woman", "County Road", "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "Fire and Rain", "I Feel the Earth Move",. and the classic "You've Got a Friend."  During the show James Taylor remark about the arena's closing:  "It's kind of bittersweet. We remember playing here in 1971. They say they're going to close the old girl down." Responding to boos Taylor brought cheers to the crowd saying "I can think of a lot of things they can do in a space like this."   

Taylor and King performed the arena's last encore singing "Up on the Roof","How Sweet It" and "You Can Close Your Eyes"The music fans of Pittsburgh closed their eyes and year to fifty years of great music under Pittsburgh's iconic dome

Scott Mervis wrote in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette  "They took to the stools for the lullaby "You Can Close Your Eyes." If that's the last song ever played in this arena, it was a quiet, sad, humble and hopeful farewell."   
Rise and Fall of the Civic Arena 

Centerpiece of the Pittsburgh's Cultural Acropolis

The idea for the Civic Arena was conceived by Abe Wolk the Pittsburgh City Councilman who was the force behind cleaning up Pittsburgh's polluted air.  
In the late 1940s Wolk convinced Edgar Kaufmann, owner of Kaufmann's Department stores, to underwrite an annual outdoor Broadway musical series at the 60,000 seat Pitt Stadium. The Civic Light Opera (CLO) was formed and presented its first season in 1946 drawing 270,000 fans. As rain frequently caused show cancellations Wolk suggested that the CLO build its own venue with a retractable roof.  Kaufmann in 1947 hired famed architect Frank Loyd Wright to design a 13 level Civic Center to be constructed on Pittsburgh's Point that would house an enclosable amphitheater with two smaller theaters, performing arts center, an exhibit hall, a sports arena, and parking lots.  The Allegheny Conference on Community Development rejected Wright's design as too expensive.  They choose to build Point State Park instead.
Wolk convinced Edgar Kaufmann in February of 1949 to pledge $1 million to build just the CLO amphitheater. K
aufmann hired two Pittsburgh architects to design it.  In February of 1950 architects James Mitchell and Dahlen Ritchey revealed plans for a 10,500-seat “umbrella amphitheater” with a retractable fabric roof attached to a cantilevered steel arm. The search for a building site began.  The first proposed site in the Highland Park neighborhood was rejected after strong protests from neighborhood residents and Mellon Bank heir Richard B. King whose estate would have been used.. A second site within Schenley Park was rejected in 1952 as it violated the city's agreement with Mary Schenley who had donated the park.

As part of Pittsburgh's first Renaissance project the Urban Redevelopment Authority sought financing to clear and "renew" the Lower Hill District. In 1950 
Pittsburgh's Planning Commission deemed the entire Lower Hill district a dilapidated slum with substandard buildings that had outlived their usefulness.  One city councilman stated "there would be no social loss if they were all destroyed."  The Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency awarded the city $5 million for the project in September of 1953. The Urban Redevelopment Authority announced plans to demolish 100 acres of the lower Hill District. With land available in the urban renewal zone the construction of the public auditorium was added to the proposal.

Needing a replacement for the aging 5,000 seat Duquesne Gardens, Mayor David Lawrence proposed that the new venue be a multi-purpose auditorium to support both the CLO and the Hornets Hockey team.  Architects Mitchell and 
Ritchey went back to the drafting board to design a multi-purpose 13,000 seat auditorium with a movable stainless steel domed roof. They also developed a master architecture plan for the entire Lower Hill.      

Mitchell & Ritchey proposed building the auditorium as part of "Cultural Acropolis" on the land of the Lower Hill District. Called the "Center for the Arts" it would include the retractable roofed "pubic auditorium" for entertainment and sports, a combination opera house and symphony hall, a theater for dramas and musicals, a modern art museum, an exhibition hall, luxury apartment buildings, hotels, office buildings and underground parking.  It was to be Pittsburgh's Lincoln Center.  

With the building site decided Mayor David Lawrence took the plans to Mr. Kaufmann in 1953 at his Palm Beach home.  Kaufmann agreed to increase his donation to $1 million. The City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County created the Public Auditorium Authority in March 1953 to purchase land and construct the new public auditorium.  The federal government approved the redevelopment plan in September of 1955 providing $17.4 million in loans and grants.  Another $100 million in private financing was pledged to build up-scale apartments, the Crosstown Boulevard, and a parking lot.  The City Council in September of 1955 approved plans for the Washington Plaza apartments designed by I.M. Pei,  Mitchell & Ritchey’s civic auditorium, a Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Hall design by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and a hotel.  Demotion of 80 entire blocks of the Lower Hill District began on May 31, 1956. The Lower Hill was nuked.

Destruction of the Cross Roads of the World
Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay called Pittsburgh's Hill District the “Crossroads to the World” as it was a center of African-American music and commerce. The Hill District's thriving jazz culture with night clubs, big band ballrooms, concert theaters and the Musicians Club produced many jazz giants from Earl Hines to Art Blakey.  WHOD DJ Mary Dee, who broadcast from a storefront on the Hill, named the corner of Wylie Avenue and Fullerton Street the "Cross Roads of the World".  The jazz clubs located on along Wylie Avenue, Fullerton Street, Centre Avenue and Crawford Street were the heart of the neighborhood’s entertainment district. The center of the Hill jazz scene was the Crawford Grill located on the corner on Wylie Avenue and Crawford Street. 

The 100 acre lower Hill District neighborhood was located between Centre and Bedford Avenues bounded on the upper end by Crawford Street and Washington Place on the lower end.  It was a thriving integrated multi-ethnic melting pot neighborhood with restaurants, beauty shops, barbers, theaters, grocers, butchers, bakeries, clothing stores, book stores, schools, churches, social clubs, and night clubs.  It had everything: jobs shopping, schools and entertainment.

The Hill District was one of Pittsburgh's most historic neighborhoods that came to life in the 1820s. A small group of free blacks were among the original settlers who founded the AME church and established businesses.  Before the Civil War the Hill was a center of the underground railroad and the abolitionist movement led by Martin Delany.  It also was Pittsburgh's primary arrival point for Irish and German immigrants in the 1850s and Italian and East European immigrants in the 1880s.  Southern Blacks began their migration to the Hill District when European immigration was halted by World War I and created a labor shortage in Pittsburgh.  The 1940 Census found that the Hill was an ethnic melting pot with 25 nationalities where children attended integrated schools. Jewish, Italian, Greek, and Black merchants served the neighborhood.  The historic ethnic churches, business, and entertainment venues provided the Hill's citizens with a vibrant social life.  But b
eing one of the Pittsburgh's oldest neighborhoods much of the dilapidated housing built in the 1800s lacked running water, toilets, modern kitchens, and central heating. According to studies one third of the Lower Hill homes were either unfit for living or needed major repairs.  A report by the city claimed that  that 60 percent of dwellings needed major repairs or lacked private indoor bathrooms.

The U.S. Supreme Court gave redevelopment authorities the power of eminent domain to acquire properties that they deemed "blighted".  To clear way for the "Cultural Acropolis" the URA declared the entire lower Hill District a slum. Every building was to be demolished including historic churches and profitable business establishments.  No attempt was made to preserve or repair historic buildings.  Everything had to go. Demolition began on May 31, 1957.  The original Crawford Grill, the Musicians Club, the Blue Note Café, Marie's, Lola's, the Bambola Social Club, the Washington Club, the Loendi Club and many other thriving jazz nightspots fell to the wrecking ball. The historic AME and St. Peter's churches were destroyed.  The corner of Wylie and Fullerton was erased from the map.  Wylie Avenue became a memory in the plays of August Wilson.

The URA destroyed 1,300 buildings, 413 businesses and moved 8,000 people from the Hill. The Pittsburgh Courier in a story headlined "Urban Renewal Means Negro Removal" warned about the eviction of Hill residents.  Thousands of predominantly poor African Americans were forced to move from their integrated neighborhood with hundreds of business to segregated public housing projects in isolated locations. But not enough modern public housing was built. Many of the evicted settled in crowed rental properties in the Upper Hill, East Liberty, and Homewood.  The Hill's Italians and Eastern Europeans bought homes in the suburbs.  Pittsburgh by 1960 became one of the most segregated big cities in the country. With access to downtown cut off by the Crosstown Boulevard and the loss of hundred of business and thousands of people the remaining Centre Avenue businesses and the rest of the Hill District went into decline.  Population of the Lower Hill dropped from 17,334 in 1950 to 2,459 in 1990. The Urban Renewal of the Lower Hill was a disastrous failure. 

Construction of the "public auditorium" began when ground was broken on April 25, 1958.  Mayor David L Lawrence said "It will be heralded the length and breath of the world..This auditorium will stand as a symbol of an era here." Anticipating the Civic Arena's opening the national media raved about the its design and its part in Pittsburgh's rebirth including Look Magazine, Holiday, Vogue, Fortune, and Architectural Forum.  Esquire Magazine Architecture writer Hebert Kublyu praised the design: "Like Rome's Colosseum and the arenas of Syracuse and Athens, it will be one of the great public meeting places in the world."

Fortune Magazine wrote of the symbolism of the Civic Arena: "The great steel dome has a meaning that goes beyond Pittsburgh. If one of the drabbest and dirtiest cities has been able to remake itself in shining pride, any city in the [United States] should be able to follow its example."

The official ground breaking for the new arena was held on April 25, 1958.  The foundation was poured on Oct 28, 1958.  The first section of the cantilevered arm was installed in April of 1959.  The Arena was constructed over a three-year period at a cost of $22 million.  
It was a designed and built by Pittsburghers using stainless steel made in Pittsburgh.  The cantilevered arm that supported the roof was constructed by Pittsburgh based American Bridge. Progress was slowed by labor problems.  It was completed in the Fall of 1961.  The arena was to be called the "Public Auditorium".  But highway sign makers chose the shorter name "Civic Arena" as it fit road signs.

Public Auditorium Grand Opening
The Civic Arena doors opened to the public for the first time on Sept. 17, 1961 for the dedication and Grand Opening. Mayor Barr and Governor David Lawrence cut a bright red ribbon opening the way for crowd of 5,000 to go indoors for the first time. A 50 piece orchestra conducted by Karl Kritz of the PSO played the Star Spangle Banner and clergymen gave their blessing called the arena "A Temple of Entertainment." The mayor, county commissioner, and governor spoke praising those who planned and built the shiny domed wonder. The orchestra gave a Pops concert performing Victor Herbert's Naught Marietta and songs from the musical Oklahoma. The roof opened up quietly and quickly revealing a bright sunlight clear blue sky. The amazed Spanish Ambassador Mariono deYturralde told the Mayor Barr "It's the eight wonder of the world".

The first major event held was a 13 day run of the Ice Capades from Sept 19 through October 1. It was a smashing success with 189,270 tickets sold for a gross of $514,483.  The Ice Capades were followed by the first ever 9 day Pittsburgh Home Show and a Pro Wrestling match on October 17, 1961.  Two days later the first ever Civic Arena pop music concert  was performed by a star from the land of OZ.

The Moveable Dome

At the time of its construction, the Civic Arena was the world’s biggest free standing dome and it was retractable.  The stainless steel dome was 417 feet in diameter and 109 feet tall.  It consisted of with eight roof sections. Six of the sections moved on steel trolley wheels mounted on steel rails.  Five small 25 horse power motors powered each movable panel. The six movable sections folded underneath each other.  The roof could be opened or closed quietly in two and one half minutes with the push of one button. The dome was an architectural marvel because it had no interior supports.  It was supported by the external 260-foot cantilever arm designed and constructed by American Bridge. The dome's construction cost was $2 million.  The Houston Astrodome replaced it as the world's biggest dome in 1965.  Toronto's Rodger Center replaced it as the world's largest retractable roof in 1989.
To hang the heavy lighting and sound systems of the big rock shows a maze of steel cables were attached to the roof sections. After that point dome openings became a rare occurrence. Opening the roof required two days of preparation to take down the steel cables. The last time the the roof opened for an event was in 1994. After the huge center Jumbotron was installed in 1995 the roof could no longer be opened as it supported the scoreboard.. The roof still worked. During the arena's demolition the Jumbotron was removed and the dome was opened for the final time.

Civic Arena Expansion
Over its 50 year history, seating capacity and luxury boxes were added to the Civic Arena to satisfy the growing number of music and hockey fans.  
In the Fall of 1973 1,000 seats and 22 private boxes were added to on the West side of the Civic Arena at a cost of $1 million.  Seating capacity for hockey games increased from 12,500 to 13,500. The private boxes were leased for $7,500 a year.  Two 1,500 seat balconies costing $4 million were added at the North and South Ends in 1974 to increase the seating for hockey to 16,500 and 17,500 for concerts.  Two new F Level balconies with 1,300 seats were added in 1993 increasing seating capacity for hockey to 17,500 and concert seating capacity to 18,000.  At a cost of $4 million the new balconies were built above the E Level balconies on the North and South End.  A new press box with 92 seats, six  luxury skybox boxes, and a 5 level elevator were also added. The huge center Jumbotron scoreboard was installed in 1995.  The roof could no longer be open after the Jumbotron's installation.

Arena Management Changes

On its opening in 1961 the Civic Arena was managed by the Public Auditorium Authority.  The Authority was responsible for leasing the arena to the CLO, sports teams, conventions, trade shows, and music promoters along running the concession stands and parking lots.  The revenues brought in from rentals, concessions, and parking were used to pay back debit incurred to construct the arena.  

Edward Debartolo Sr.
The NHL expansion hockey team, the Penguins, became the Civic Arena's primary tenant on their founding in 1967.  The Penguins lost money every year for their first ten years of their existence.  Team ownership changed ten times.  Millionaire shopping mall developer Edward J. Debartolo Sr. purchased the Penguins in 1978.  Debartolo continued to lose money on the Penguins from 1978 through 1980 seasons.  To make the Penguins profitable Debartolo made a deal with the local government.  Debartolo took over payments of the arena's debt service in return for a 50 lease to manage the Civic Arena.  
The deal gave the Penguins all of the revenue from food and drink sales, parking, and rental fees.  Debartolo also promised to build a 5,000 car parking garage behind the arena.  Under the lease agreement DeBartolo's Civic Arena Corporation took control of the venue from the Pubic Auditorium Authority.  Debartolo hired all of the arena's employees.  He appointed ex-Steeler and Pitt football star, Paul Martha VP and managing director.  Martha made Tom Rooney VP of advertising and promotions.  Under Debartolo's ownership the Penguins drafted Mario Lemieux in 1984 igniting ticket sales.  The Penguins won back to back Stanley Cups in 1990 and 1991.

With sold out games, a Stanley Cup and superstar Mario, the Penguins were now a valuable sports property.  Suffering severe losses and layoffs in his real estate business Debartolo needed money.  He cashed in his Penguins investment by selling the team and the arena management lease for $55 million in October of 1991. Howard Baldwin and Morris Belzberg purchased the team for $31 million.  Spectacore Management Group (SMG) brought the rights to manage the arena for $24 million.  Spectacore also managed Three Rivers Stadium and 29 other venues across the U..S
In November of 1998 the Penguins $90 million in debt again filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. To keep the Stanley Cups Championship roster together owner Howard Baldwin gave his star players big salary increases that he couldn't pay. Mario Lemieux, who was owned $32.5 million in salaries and penalties, was one of the biggest creditors. The bankruptcy court awarded control of the Pittsburgh Penguins  to Mario Lemieux and an investor group led by Ronald Burkle in September of 1999.  SMG was retained as manager of the Civic Arena.  Ownership of the building was transferred from the Public Auditorium Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh. 

Concert Promoters

Concerts at the Civic Arena were booked and promoted primarily by DiCesare Engler Productions and Electric Factory Productions. DeBartolo's Civic Arena Corporation and SMG also booked and promoted concerts.

Renaming to Mellon Arena
The Penguins won the Civic Arena naming rights when Mario Lemieux took control of team in bankruptcy court in 1999. In search of sponsorship revenue the name of the Civic Arena was sold by the Penguins for $18 million to the Mellon Financial Group.  The arena was renamed to Mellon Arena in  December of 1999.  

Penguins Demand New Arena Threaten Move to Kansas City

Upon buying the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999 Mario Lemuix began a campaign to replace the Civic Arena with a new building. The Penguins wanted a building that would generate more revenue. New arena's and new stadiums have luxurious corporate suite, team merchandise stores, large concession stand, and bars that bring in millions in additional revenue. The Penguins commissioned a study that estimated it would cost $100 million to widen the concourses to offer more food, drink and merchandise outlets. To add more seats, more luxury boxes and more seating would cost $200 to $220 million. The Penguins would be unable to play home games for two years during the construction.  The study also found short comings with the Civic Area. The dome distorts the acoustics of concert events. The sight lines of the upper seating offered restricted views of the ice. Most importantly the premium seats and suites were not competitive with suite offered at PNC Park and Heinz Field. The arena luxury boxes weren't as fancy and rented for much lower prices.  The study concluded the renovation of the exiting arena would 
cost as much as building a new arena.  It recommend that a new facility be built.  With the study in hand the Penguins purchased the former St. Francis Central Hospital property on Centre Avenue across the street from Mellon Arena for $8 million.

Concert promoters also supported for replacement of the Civic Arena.  The roof had a weight limit on how much lighting, sound equipment, and scenery could be hung. Extra expense was incurred to work around the weight limit for large productions.  In some cases the larger tours skipped the arena because of the weight limit and the difficulty in stage setup. Artists kept bringing more and heavy equipment such as large scales video screen to the arena.  The promoters also wanted more seats to compete with the 22,000 capacity Post Gazette Pavilion amphitheater.
In March of 2001 the Penguins announced plans to build a 18,000-seat, $225 million facility saying it was necessary for the long-term financial stability of the franchise,.  They selected a site between Centre and Fifth avenues across from the Mellon Arena.  Pointing to the millions that the state and local government gave to build PNC Park and Heinz Field, the Penguins asked for public funds to build their new arena.  The local news media joined in the campaign to build a new arena.  Every newspaper story and TV report about the Penguins referred to the Mellon Arena as 
"the oldest rink in the National Hockey League".  

To up the anti the Penguin officials entertained offers to move the team to Las Vegas and Kansas City if the Pittsburgh did not meet the demand for a new facility.  In March of 2007 Gov. Edward Rendell announced that the state, county, and city reached agreement on a $290 deal million for a new arena to be ready for the 2009-2010 NHL season.  

The Dome is Doomed - Acropolis Crumbles
In the 2007 agreement for the new facility the Penguins requested that Mellon Arena not used for concerts, circuses or other events that would compete with the new venue. They specified the Mellon Arena to be demolished on completion of the new facility.  They also obtained the rights to develop the Civic Arena site with housing, stores, office buildings, parks and a hotel. 

The "Re-Use the Igloo" campaign to save and reuse to Mellon arena was mounted by preservationists. They sought to have the arena declared an historic building to protect it from demolition. The preservationists wanted to save the arena due to its innovative retractable doomed roof, its symbolism of Pittsburgh's urban renewal efforts, its history as a cultural center, and its iconic image on the Pittsburgh skyline.
Historic Review Commission Chairman John DeSantis supported the effort stating said "The arena is one of the best buildings this community produced in the 20th century."  Architect Rob Pfaffmann proposed preserving the arena as a public space with shops, a restaurant, a small hotel and a marketing under the open dome.  CMU architecture student envisioned a skating rink and park.  

Some opponents of preservation saw the Civic Arena as a symbol of the failure of urban renewal.  They wanted the arena demolished so that the neighborhood of the lower Hill to could be restored with streets connecting it to the downtown and with homes, businesses, and entertainment venues.  Pittsburgh City Councilman Sala Udin spoke at a hearing about the desire restore the neighborhood. "The demolition of my home along with 8,000 others in the 1950s and 1960s began a multi-generational wound. The redevelopment can begin a healing process to preserve the people, and I hope that once this arena is demolished we can depend on this entire preservation community to support the development of the people with the same vigor that you now support of the preservation of a building."

Preservation Pittsburgh filed a federal lawsuit on March 30, 2010 to save the arena.  On September 9, 2010 the 3rd appeals court denied the lawsuit saying it had no jurisdiction.  On January 5, 2011, the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission voted 5–1 in favor for preliminary approval of the arena's historic nomination status. After a formal hearing on the proposed designation the HRC voted against landmark status on March 2, 2011.  Pittsburgh City Planning and City Council also turned down requests for historic designation.  

James Taylor and Carol King closed 50 years of music with the final event at the Civic Arena on .June 26, 2010.  

The Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) o
n September 16, 2010 unanimously voted to demolish the Civic Arena.  Demolition began on September 26, 2011 and was completed on March 31, 2012.


The Civic Arena was an architectural and engineering success.  It provided Pittsburgh with a stage to host large concerts and sporting events for fifty years.  Millions of Pittsburgh area residents celebrated the glory days of arena rock and championship sports seasons at the arena.  But the urban renewal project that the arena was the center piece of  was a failure.  A culturally vibrant historic neighborhood was totally destroyed to clear way for the un-built "cultural acropolis". Eight thousand people were evicted from their homes.  The Civic Arena was the symbol of the uncaring top-down planned urban "removal" project.  
Not a single historic building was persevered   Funds were never provided to build the promised concert hall, theaters, art museum, and exhibit space.  With its street connection to downtown cut off and the loss of the lower Hill population the entire Hill District and its great musical and social cultures went into ruin not "renewal".

Torn down were dozens of small jazz clubs and the Musicians Club where Pittsburgh's artists learned and perfected their craft on their way to international fame. Touring national jazz artists like Duke Ellington and Max Roach were booked for week long engagements in the clubs of the Hill.  During their stays in town the national artists jammed with Pittsburgh jazz musicians at the Musicians Club and after hours clubs. Showing their talent in the jam sessions many of Pittsburgh's jazz greats were hired by the national touring artists.  Clearing the Hill of its jazz clubs wiped out the opportunity for Pittsburgh musicians to interact with national artists. Instead established national acts performed one night stands at the arena and bolted quickly out of town.  They did not interact with or jam with Pittsburgh's musicians.  No effort was made to save and preserve the Crawford Grill or the clubs of Fullerton Street and Wylie Avenue.  The Fullerton Street area became a parking lot.  The promised 'cultural acropolis' that was to replace the jazz culture was never built on the Hill.    

Ironically funds were invested to preserve and restore Pittsburgh's great downtown movie palaces to create the downtown Cultural District.  The Penn Theater became the PSO's Heinz Hall.  The Stanley Theater was expanded and renamed the Benedum Center to host musicals, opera and ballet.  The Fulton Theater became the Byham Theater to host small concerts.  To replace the destroyed ornate Nixon Theater the Pittsburgh Public Theater was built to host dramatic plays.  Andy Warhol willed his art collection to Pittsburgh giving Pittsburgh its modern art museum on the North Side. The convention center was constructed along the Allegheny river in the "Cultural District".  

Today the barren land of the Lower Hill awaits its rebirth as a neighborhood.   

"Although regarded as an engineering masterwork, the Mellon Arena has also been regarded as a paramount faux pas of urban renewal. It is difficult to determine if the civic center plan would have been quite as detrimental to the city had it been completed, but as it stands, nearly fifty years later, the arena remains a great point of contention in the community....Nothing can bring back the Arena; it was doomed by its own historical baggage and there was no room on the development agendas for such a colossus. Likewise, nothing will return the pre-Civic Arena Lower Hill to its former vibrancy.  But out of this dust and rubble, Pittsburgh's power-brokers have a unique opportunity to build something fabulous and to right past wrongs." -Mellon Arena by J Greenawalt  Docomomo US August 17, 2012