The first thing you'll notice when you walk in for the first time is the smell.
It's kind of a cliched lame joke to say something new has that "new car smell." Be it a laptop, washing machine, mattress or a baby, someone with a complete lack of originality will surely blurt out, "It has that new car smell!" And follow it up with a mouthy, self-validating laugh while you try to be polite and force out a smile.
But that's exactly what we noticed immediately when we set foot in Consol Energy Center Thursday when provided a tour of the facility. It really does smell like a new car. Surely once the chicken strips start cooking and a few beers are spilled, that smell will wear away, but this place literally smells new.
Another reason we say the smell will be the first thing you notice is because the exterior of the building, quite frankly, is rather bland. If it weren't for the Penguins logos and such, a stranger would probably just pass by the structure thinking it was a warehouse or some other unremarkable facility. Outside of the glass window on the west end of the building, the exterior of Consol Energy Center hardly had any extraordinary features, especially when you compare it to the the distinctive dome of Mellon Arena across the street.
There are two primary entrances most folks will enter. The "main" entrance appears to be on the corner of Washington Place and Center Avenue:
(Note: We've borrowed this photo from ThePensblog.)
As indicated above, fans will enter to the left. The Penguins' offices are to the right.
Looking down Fifth Avenue, there are four vacant storefronts on the side of the building:
At the Verizon Centre in Washington D.C., spots similar to these house places like Chipotle and Dunkin Donuts.
The other main entrance, as sponsored by a totally mediocre media company, will be facing west off Center Avenue:
-A second entrance, facing northeast on Center Avenue, will have access to a parking garage and will primarily serve folks with suites on the Suite level:
When you enter the gate facing west on Centre Avenue, this is what you'll see:
Space. Lots of it. And if the Penguins are playing a day game, lots and lots of natural light. Something a Penguins employee really pointed out was the abundance of natural light in the building in contrast to Mellon Arena. Basically, the Penguins' former home was a dungeon in comparison.
And looking down on the concourse:
Up in the right hand corner where the black curtains are, you'll be able to find the interactive all-time Penguins team display.
The new team store, Pens Gear, is located in this concourse:
Again, lots and lots of space. In PenStation, the store in Mellon Arena, you pretty much had to squeeze your way through other folks while getting stabbed in the ribs by metal racks with Erik Christensen and Darryl Sydor t-shirt jerseys on clearance. Here, you'll be able to look for that Brooks Orpik jersey with the XL tag without having someone breathing nachos and jalapenos down your neck.
The view of the ice from the first level:
-That opening in the corner will be the Zamboni gate.
-Should you ever find yourself on the second level with the suites, this is the view of downtown from behind the glass wall:
And in case you have any hopes of sneaking into a suite and stealing someone's hot wings, not so fast:
-You'll need to scan a ticket to gain entrance into a suite. So don't lose your ducat if you need to run to the men's room.
-Moving on up to the third level, check out all the space you have to navigate the concourse:
-The very last row of seats:
-The view from those seats:
-And compared to the view from the last row of the top row of the south F balcony at Mellon Arena:
-It's not quite as close, but for the sake of argument, check out this shot:
-That's the view of the last row at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. In comparison, Consol Energy Center provides a much better vantage point.
-And for the sake of further comparison, the view from the last row at Wells Fargo Center (formerly the Wachovia Center) in Philadelphia:
-The view of the glass window on the third level:
-The part of the building which really just smacked us in terms of its opulence was this:
-They're using HD televisions for the menus. That $1,000 TV you're trying to finance from Best Buy? They're using them all over the building to sell you $4 sodas.
-And speaking of soda...
-Yeah. R.C. Cola. Sigh...
-But if there's something to offset that bad news, it's this:
-No. Trough. Urinals!
-A rather pleasant view of Uptown:
-Now onto some sights you probably won't see too often. The control room for all the audio and visual bells and whistles in the building:
-This what they used at Mellon Arena:
-Ray Shero will be able to watch Blue Jackets-Predators AND CSI Miami at the same time from this box:
-The is actually a fourth, much larger, television on the opposite wall.
-The visiting locker room is a incredible upgrade over the the facility in Mellon Arena:
-On to the Penguins' facilities. The locker room:
-Dana Heinze, the Penguins' trainer, calls it "The Egg" due to its oval shape.
-At the bottom of the "egg," is a television screen and dry erase board the coaching staff can use to diagram plays:
-At Mellon Arena, if the coaches wanted to show a replay on video, they would have to do it in the lounge.
-Speaking of lounges...
-We didn't nearly take enough pictures of this place. The lounge at Mellon Arena was a comfy but slightly cramped place. It's counterpart at Mellon Arena is like the clubhouse of a country club. On an aircraft carrier. In outerspace. Or whatever awesomely ridiculous comparisons you can think of.
-On the walls of the lounge are team photos of every former Penguins team:
-A therapy area with a hot and cold tub:
-The exercise area was still being organized:
-Finally, and most importantly, the ice:
-In short, this is a pretty ordinary building on the exterior, but simply spectacular on the inside. If you're going to a Penguins game you will be spoiled regardless of if you're sitting in a suite or in the last row.
-Being the gushy sentimental types we are, we also walked on up to Mellon or... we guess it's back to Civic Arena based on what we saw:
-Pretty much, anything which said "Mellon Arena" was stripped away:
-The flags were taken off the flagpoles and if you look closely, you can see some spiral fencing which has been erected around the building: