Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Igloo

Amid the current furor and public clamor for a new hockey/concert arena in Pittsburgh, the Post-Gazette’s Brian O’Neill recounts the early days of the Civic Arena, also known as “The Igloo” and currently sporting the corporate-sponsored moniker of “Mellon Arena.”

Built in 1961, the Civic Arena was originally conceived as a venue for the Civic Light Opera. Over the years, the building has played host to the Pittsburgh Penguins, various circuses, truck and tractor pulls, wrestling extravaganzas, the Ice Capades and thousands of memorable concerts.

Many people today don’t realize the arena was built with a retractable roof, which no longer operates. Like Brian O’Neill, Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls attended the same Bob Dylan concert played with the roof open on an early summer evening. Dylan did his usual thing, which was to play dozens of songs you know but wouldn’t necessarily recognize because he rendered them in entirely new melodies or arrangements that were throughly entertaining anyway.

We saw another concert, by Pink Floyd, when the roof opened during the concert. All of a sudden, during “Dark Side of the Moon,” the roof began to retract, the band continued to play, and thousands of stoned fans looked aloft in wonderment as the hovering cumulous cloud of smoke above them wafted into the starlit sky. “Whoa-oohhh.”

A lot of people today say the Civic Arena is a dump, and it probably is. But we’ve always been fond of it.

We've always been fond, too, of the beauteous feminine pulchritude that is Shania Twain. That's her in the photos, by the way -- in concert, yup, you guessed it, at the Civic Arena.