Friday, October 8, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

                       Mario Lemieux, opening night, the new Consol Energy Center

by Jan Snyder

The Pens season finally began after what seemed like an eternally long summer! Going to the new Consol Energy Center with all the other fans created in my head a New Year’s Eve-type feeling. As we look ahead to the new, we leave behind the old.

Walking to the new arena while walking past the old arena left me feeling a little disquieted. In the dark of night, the Igloo, without any lights or activity, gives the appearance of a UFO that dropped out of the sky onto Center Avenue! I couldn’t help but sense that the Igloo felt like Cinderella at midnight! Everyone ignored the old arena that was so filled with wonderful memories and tossed it aside for the shiny new toy that is the Consol. I think if I looked closely, I could see little teardrops on the roof of the Igloo (okay, that’s just me and my overactive imagination!).

Back to the shiny new toy – what a delight to enter and immediately see a large Pens store – no more Pens Station – but all the same goodies and more. To the left is the eye-catching Mario’s Mural, featuring several photos of Mario Lemieux made out of tiny pictures of fans.  Anyone could send in their photo with a donation of $66 and be included in the mural. All the money goes to the Lemieux Foundation. We could barely walk by because everyone was taking photos! Front and center in the picture is Mario holding the team’s first ever Stanley Cup over his head.

Up the escalators to our seats – we stopped briefly on the suite floor to admire some of the great art work hanging on the walls. One group of pictures I liked showed Jordan Staal taking a shot, but the picture next to it showed only his stick that isn’t seen in the first photo. Just a neat artist’s eye view of a scene, I thought.

Concessions stands were everywhere – no more just hot dogs and nachos! Now we can get Tim Horton’s coffee, Country Time Lemonade, chicken tenders, burgers, pizza, fruit plates, salads, sandwiches, and of course, the Pittsburgh standard – Primanti Bros. These are sandwiches on fresh, homemade Italian bread, with the sandwich meat, plus your cole slaw and fries inside the sandwich! Delish!

I really can’t say that I took in everything. The Consol was sort of overwhelming on my first look. As we made it to our seats, the view of the ice was wonderful! Everyone can see, no poles or other obstructions. To the right of us, we could see the Captain Morgan’s Club and to the left, the First Niagara Club seats. Below us were the suites and high above, the press box – way bigger than before.

All the banners adorned the top of the arena, as well as the two retired sweaters, Briere’s and Mario’s. The scoreboard is huge and in HD. Great for replays!

We fans were asked to be in our seats at 6:45 for the pre-game Opening Night Show. I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store for us! I was truly not disappointed!

The show began with the workers removing the ice from the Igloo and dumping it into an underground collection bin. Then highights from the former players winning the Cup as the water dripped into a bottle. Each player added his own “drops” until the bottle was full. We were so entranced by the show, that we failed to see that Mario Lemieux had skated to center ice! Then the lights came up – and there he was – holding up the bottle of water. He theatrically turned and showed it to all four sides of the place, and then he poured the old “memories” water onto the ice at the Consol! Reminded me a little of the pensieve in the Harry Potter books. Don’t you wish we could all use that device and relive the player’s memories?

Then Mario skated off and the 2010-2011 team was introduced.

Mario returned with the Commissioner to drop the ceremonial first puck and then the game was on!

The place rocked and chants of “Let’s Go Pens” began in different corners. Although the Flyers scored first (Briere, much like the retired jersey) and more (3-2 final score), the answer to the trivia question will always be Tyler Kennedy. The question? Who scored the Pens first goal at the Consol?

After all the hype, the pre-game festivities and a game against our biggest rival, losing was no fun, but the experience was unforgettable. I’ll be back on Saturday and report more then and hopefully, I can talk about a Pens winning goal too!

Hockey is back!!

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