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Don't be cruel to Elvis' Civic Arena plaque, fans tell officials

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Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
 

Elvis has left the auction.

Officials relented Wednesday on a plan to auction a plaque commemorating Elvis Presley's three concerts at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena after fans of the King complained in a story on the Tribune-Review's website about the sale.

"It should be placed someplace where masses of people can see it and remember Elvis," said Priscilla Parker, 71, of Dormont, president of the We Remember Elvis Fan Club.

Parker and four girlfriends raised $1,157 for the plaque that was placed in the Civic Arena on Elvis' birthday in 1982. It remained there until the building closed last summer. The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the arena, included the plaque in an online memorabilia auction that opened this week.

After hearing fans' complaints, the authority pulled the plaque from the auction and offered it instead to the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District, said Doug Straley, the authority's project executive.

The history center will accept it, spokesman Ned Schano said.

"If they want to put it in the Heinz History Center, that is fine with us," said Parker, who pointed out she was a Priscilla long before there was a Priscilla Presley. "It shouldn't be in somebody's private collection."

Other auction items include an autographed locker where hockey Hall of Fame player and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux hung his street clothes before games, sections of dasherboard and seatbacks autographed by players. Two memorabilia auctions, set to close Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, include more than 550 items. They are online at iglooseats.com.

The SEA gets two-thirds of the money the sale raises and a third goes to the Penguins Foundation, which supports children's charities and youth hockey programs. The first of several auctions, in December, raised $100,000.

No auction item drew more attention than the Elvis plaque, said Ryan Householder, project manager for AssetNation, the company hired to conduct the auction. The company specializes in selling public property, typically vehicles and heavy equipment. The plaque was different, and Householder posted it as the sale's first item.

"It probably is the most unique item," Householder said.

When the Civic Arena closed in August, sports historians selected items for The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in the Strip District: among them, lights from behind the goals, the building's dedication plaque and Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma's dry-erase board.

"Our goal is to preserve this history of the Civic Arena, as well as the history of the Penguins," Schano said.

The Elvis plaque was not on the history center's wish list and went to auction because neither the SEA nor the Penguins grabbed the plaque for Consol Energy Center.

Parker said Elvis' death inspired the fan club's five founding members to make the plaque. Elvis played at the Civic Arena on New Year's Eve in 1976, eight months before he died.

The friends raised donations and sold items at flea markets to pay for the plaque. Elvis' estate approved their sketch for its design.

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