A Brief History
On September 17, 1961, downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was the site of the first retractable roof arena in the world, although its purpose may surprise you!
The Civic Arena was built mainly as the home of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, although it moved into the sporting world in a big way in 1967 when it became the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL hockey team, until 2010, when it finally closed.
Of course, the 17,000 seat arena also hosted many other sporting events, professional and amateur, including basketball, wrestling, boxing, soccer, figure skating, gymnastics, and roller derby, as well as stage events such as musical concerts. Big name politicians appeared at events in the arena, including Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Barry Goldwater.
Built for a bargain $22 million, the original name was to be Civic Auditorium Amphitheater, but that did not fit on signs!
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever attended a retractable roof arena? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Mulligan, Stephen. Were You There?: Over 300 Wonderful, Weird, and Wacky Moments from the Pittsburgh Civic/Mellon Arena. Dorrance Publishing, 2011.
The Association of Gentlemen Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena: Stories from the Igloo. History PR, 2021.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Derek Jensen (Tysto) of Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been released into the public domain worldwide by the copyright holder of this work.
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