Feature Article - July 2010
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Design for the Big Time

Latest Stadiums Mix History, Technology and Intimate Fan Experience

By Daniel P. Smith

Consol Energy Center
Location: Pittsburgh
Home Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Opening: August 2010
Seating: 18,374 for hockey, including 65 suites, four party suites and 1,962 club seats

The new Pittsburgh Penguins arena uses exterior materials distinct to the Pennsylvania region yet consciously different from those of the adjacent Epiphany Church, an iconic piece of the Steel City's landscape.

Dramatic architecture is central to the design. A glazed circulation spine creates a striking architectural element that celebrates movement while simultaneously injecting a vivid marker into the night skyline. From inside, the spine affords guests dramatic views of the adjacent church and downtown skyline.

The Consol Energy Center, which will open as the first LEED-Certified NHL arena, claims a flexible seating bowl that will allow it to accommodate a wide range of sports and entertainment events. In addition, the arena will include two restaurants and a 3,400-square-foot team store.

Of additional note, plans remain in the works for the new arena's outdoor plaza to continue the team's tradition of showing playoff and other special games on a big screen outdoors, yet another opportunity for the stadium to boost the economic viability of the local area and respect the Penguins' history.

"Consol Energy Center is shaped by its site," said Rick Martin, managing senior principal for Populous. "We worked with the significant grade change of the site to create a remarkable glazed circulation spine that gives the building movement from the outside and offers spectacular views to downtown from within."

Hot and Cold in Big-Time Stadium Design

Interactive fan zones
LEED Certification
Profit areas for year-round traffic
Loge boxes, field-level boxes and party decks
Ample restrooms
Team retail stores
Wide concourses
Outdoor stadiums with skyline or waterway views
Retro design elements with modern-day amenities
In-stadium sports bars
Transparency and the public process
HD video boards
Integrated sponsorship
Variety of seating at diverse price points
Intimate viewing experience


In-suite bathrooms
Fixed ad panels