The first week with the Penguins was a great learning experience.  I am meeting a lot of different people with the organization and starting to get comfortable with the Consol Energy Center.  Most importantly, I’m learning a lot about the various initiatives of the Government Affairs and Community Outreach departments.  One of the main focuses these days of this arm of the organization is connecting with the local community and supporting it through a time of great transition.  Without getting too detailed I’ll try to sum up below the current relationship between the Penguins and the surrounding neighborhood, commonly referred to as the Hill District.  All of this is critically important to my current role with the organization.

In 1961 the city of Pittsburgh completed and opened what was at the time a state-of-the-art facility called the Civic Arena.  It had a gleaming stainless steel domed roof which was retractable.  Given its outward appearance and eventual addition of ice on the floor for hockey, the Civic Arena was nicknamed “The Igloo.”  One of the negative effects of the arena construction was the creation of a barrier between downtown Pittsburgh and the Hill District.

The Penguins started using Civic Arena as their permanent home in 1967.  Unfortunately, its role as a hockey arena prevented use of The Igloo’s most prominent feature, the retractable roof.  The Penguins had varied success in the decades that followed.  The highs included three Stanley Cup championships in 1991, 1992 and 2009.  The lows were potentially more damaging with the team entering bankruptcy twice in both 1975 and 1998.

During the last round of financial difficulty it was longtime Penguin great Mario Lemieux that came to the rescue.  Along with a minority stake partner, Lemieux purchased the Penguins and pledged to keep the team in Pittsburgh following speculation that the team would move.

The organization continued to struggle financially even with the added boost of Lemieux’s return to the ice as the league’s first ever player-owner.  The NHL lockout which canceled the entire 2004-2005 season was ultimately a good thing for the Penguins.  The new salary cap structure of the league allowed the Penguins to finally compete financially with other teams in the league.

To further solidify the future of the team in Pittsburgh a new arena would be necessary.  Ultimately the Penguins and the city along with the state of Pennsylvania reached an agreement that would lead to construction of the Consol Energy Center (CEC).   As part of the agreement, the Penguins have 10 year development rights to the 28 acre site that the Civic Arena and adjacent parking lots currently sit on.

The CEC was constructed across the street from the old Civic Arena.  The Penguins began using the new arena in 2010.  The versatility of the brand new CEC as not only a hockey arena but also a venue for concerts and other sporting events made the Civic Arena completely obsolete.

What to do with the old arena became the subject of much debate.  There were many that wanted the old arena razed in order to make way for newer development that would ultimately benefit the surrounding community and the city at large.  Others saw The Igloo as a cultural and historical landmark that should be preserved or at worst incorporated into the new development.

Ultimately the city of Pittsburgh, the Penguins and the local community agreed that tearing down Civic Arena completely made the most sense in terms of the long term financial benefit to everyone involved.  The old facility will be completely torn down in another month or two.

The Penguins have stressed that they want to provide both financial and employment opportunities to the Hill District during this period of revitalization.  The team wants to help reconnect the community with downtown Pittsburgh as well.  Much of what the Government Affairs and Community Outreach departments do for the organization is help maintain relationships with the community and local government to ensure that common goals and the best interest of everyone is being served.  My role as an intern to help support those objectives.

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