When the Pittsburgh Penguins' dilapidated Mellon Arena was on its last legs, Mario Lemieux and the ownership group sought a new arena for the team. But the CONSOL Energy Center has been far more than a mere home for the hockey franchise. Sure, the new arena helped ensure the team remained in town ... and that's a good thing considering it has become perhaps the premier franchise in the NHL. But the arena has offered benefits beyond a new place for the team to play. Since the facility was built in 2010, Pittsburgh has become a destination of choice for some of the nation's biggest sporting events.
In 2012, the venue hosted second and third round games of college basketball's NCAA Tournament. Also in that year, the NHL held their annual Draft in the building. And in 2013, the CONSOL Energy Center was the home of the Frozen Four - the culmination of the NCAA Division I Hockey Championships. The NCAA basketball tournament will also return in 2015 and the venue has even been mentioned by David Stern as a potential home for an NBA franchise if Pittsburgh ever lands one (don't hold your breath).
Besides the sporting aspect, though, the arena has also hosted several concerts. On the surface, that may not sound like a big deal if you're unfamiliar with the City. But musical acts have in the past refused to play at Mellon Arena, citing the old facility and bad acoustics. Instead, many have chosen to play at other venues outside of Pittsburgh - most notably, at the First Niagara Pavilion close to the West Virginia border. The new arena immediately paid dividends and has helped keep those attractions right in the downtown area. Paul McCartney opened the arena as its first ever act in 2010 with tickets selling out in only five minutes. And the first month saw concerts by others including George Strait, Lady Gaga, Rush, Reba McEntire, and Lee Ann Womack.
On a more local level, the facility has been used to play the annual City Game - a college basketball game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and Duquesne Dukes. It was also used the week of the NHL Winter Classic for a hockey doubleheader between college teams and minor league affiliates. And in a more regular capacity, the facility is also currently the home of the local Arena Football League team, the Pittsburgh Power - a team that didn't exist until the venue was built.
The benefit to Pittsburgh has been clear. All of the added attractions have provided more jobs for residents who can work more events as vendors and ushers. Tourism sales will continue to rise with more and more events, bringing in significant revenue to the City's hotels and restaurants. And national events such as the NCAA Tournament put the City front and center more often.
In the end, Pittsburgh got much more than a hockey venue with the CONSOL Energy Center.