Pens' architect did PNC, Heinz

| Thursday, May 17, 2007

The architectural firm the Penguins have hired to design a $290 million Uptown arena is responsible for other Pittsburgh sports venues.

HOK Sport of Kansas City will oversee design of the arena, the team said Wednesday. The company provided the blueprints for PNC Park and Heinz Field.

"It is important for this arena to fit the new Pittsburgh," Penguins CEO Ken Sawyer said. "For HOK to be familiar with the local scene -- the Sports & Exhibition Authority people and other groups in town -- that's very helpful.

"Most important, these guys know how to build arenas."

The Penguins also hired Denver-based ICON Venue Group to develop the arena project. That company has worked with HOK Sport on hockey facilities for the New Jersey Devils, Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. The sports authority will own the arena.

ICON Venue Group's duties will include working with team owners on details such as contracting for construction.

"These companies work well together," Sawyer said. "We want to bring this building in on target, and these are the companies to do that."

The arena will be HOK Sport's 10th NHL facility since 1993. Most, including the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, opened to rave reviews.

"We wanted a simple feel, and they accomplished that," said Bill Robertson, Minnesota Wild vice president of communications. "They understood what we wanted to accomplish and worked very closely with us. They were good listeners. ... They designed a building that is one of Minnesota's treasures."

Sawyer said Xcel Energy Center and Arena in Glendale, Ariz., are two facilities that "most resemble what (the Penguins) are trying to achieve" with Pittsburgh's arena.

"From the backstage aspect for concerts, to the patron aspect with multiple gates and entry points, our arena is very functional," Arena General Manager Jim Foss said. "This feels like a hockey building, and that enhances the concert experience because fans are closer to the stage as they are closer to the ice.

"We have a really intimate feel."

Sawyer said the Penguins' plan for an arena is to provide fans with the NHL's most intimate setting.

"Ours is an interesting site, but it also presents some challenges -- like a slope," Sawyer said. "But we want a design to take advantage of those views of the city that will be available to us."

The team and elected officials in March agreed on financing for the arena, which will sit between Centre and Fifth avenues across from Mellon Arena. The sports authority is demolishing buildings on the site to prepare for a September groundbreaking.

Neither HOK Sport nor ICON Venue Group would delve into specifics of their plans for the arena, which is slated to open during the 2009-10 season.

"It's still a little while before we'll have a design," Sawyer said. "We have public meetings coming up and need input from the community. There are elements we won't even consider at this point -- finishing touches and stuff like that.

"But this arena will be fit into Pittsburgh, just like the other new facilities."

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