Consol menu goes from ordinary to exotic

| Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010

Whether the Pens make the playoffs this season, one thing is certain: Nobody at their home games will go hungry watching them try.

Fans at Consol Energy Center can feast on everything from hot dogs to lobster and choose from more than 20 brands of beer. Twenty-five concession stands will feature Pizza Hut pizza, Wingstreet wings and turkey wraps. A food court on the lower level will sell Primanti Brothers sandwiches, while a carving and saute station will serve such items as pasta with seasonal vegetables and roasted elk loin.

"Obviously, the look and feel of the building is going to be much different, and we wanted the food to change in that direction as well," said Travis Williams, senior vice president of business affairs for the Penguins.

"That's going to be our best opportunity to bring in local and seasonal product, so the menu will change every game," said Carl VanWagner, executive chef for Consol Energy Center.

Philadelphia-based Aramark signed a 10-year agreement in 2008 with the Penguins to provide food, beverages and fan merchandise at the arena. Aramark had run the Civic Arena's concessions since 1991.

VanWagner said the opening of the new arena afforded an opportunity to introduce dishes that fans may find a touch exotic, such as elk stroganoff with morel mushrooms and bison ribeye sandwiches with thyme aioli.

"We wanted to build on the buzz surrounding the opening of Consol Energy Center with our menu," Wagner says. "Fans are expecting to be blown away when they enter the arena for the first time, and we want our menu to be a big part of why they feel that way."

Food prices were not available.

"We feel that it's very affordable within the confines of a professional sports venue," Williams said. "We are comparable to both PNC Park and Heinz Field when it comes to pricing."

Ron Dick, an assistant sports marketing professor at Duquesne University, said food prices at new sports venues typically increase about 10 percent from the old venues.

The arena's 30 portable food kiosks will sell sushi from Nakama Japanese Steakhouse in South Side, Dairy Queen ice cream, popcorn, Mexican food and other items.

The concourses are much wider than those at the Igloo, which means that fans lining up at concession stands will have a better view of the action on the ice.

On the upper level, with its panoramic view of Pittsburgh, fans can drink beer in the Brewhouse or sample beef brisket at the Smokehouse, which will smoke its own meats.

Premium ticket holders can dine buffet-style in the upscale Lexus Club, a 250-seat restaurant on the arena's suite level that will serve such dishes as braised bison sirloin and pistachio-encrusted pork tenderloin.

"Ultimately, what we determined after talking to our fans is that they still wanted the ability to come to the game, get their meal quickly and get to their seats," Williams said. "We kept the buffet concept we had over at the Igloo Club."

For premium ticket holders, the First Niagara Club and the Captains Club feature bistro and grille-style food, a bar and coat check service.

Consol Center vs. Civic Arena

Consol Energy Center — Category — Civic Arena

18,087 — Seats/hockey — 16,940

19,100 — Seats/basketball — 17,537

20,000 — Seats/center-stage concert — 18,039

14,500 — Seats/end-stage concert — 12,800

Aug. 2010 — Opening date — Sept. 17, 1961

Paul McCartney — First concert — Judy Garland

Aug. 14, 2008 — Groundbreaking — April 26, 1958

$321 million — Cost — $22 million

Populous (formerly HOK Sport) — Architect — Mitchell & Ritchey (now DRS Architects)

12 — Escalators — 2

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