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Planning to delay Pens' arena '09 opening

| Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Penguins won't move into a new Uptown arena at the start of the 2009 season -- and maybe not until a year after that, officials said Friday.

That doesn't bother team officials, who prefer to take a long-term view of getting the right arena instead of hurrying to build, Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said.

"There's an obligation to the community here to do this the right way," he said. "This is a necessary part of the process. You can't get ahead of yourself. If you're not ready, then you don't do it to just hit a deadline."

The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority expected to break ground on the $290 million arena in September and open the building 24 months later. But construction will not start until later this year or early 2008, because the design process has just begun, Executive Director Mary Conturo said.

"We're just now sitting down with the architects and trying to work out a realistic plan for the design of the building," she said. "The planning and design has to be done before we break ground."

The Department of City Planning, sports authority and Penguins will have a community meeting Monday evening to explain a strategy for seeking public input on a design.

The City Planning Commission needs to approve a master development plan for the arena and will consider issues such as traffic congestion, said Planning Director Noor Ismail. A traffic study will be completed this month.

The planning phase could take until September or October.

Incorporating public comments, finalizing plans and setting a guaranteed maximum price for construction could take longer. The sports authority has not hired a construction manager to oversee the project.

Final designs for the arena likely will look different from renderings the team has used for years. It could have more glass to accentuate views of Downtown, and bricks that complement existing architecture.

The Penguins have hired HOK Sport of Kansas City to oversee design. The company provided blueprints for PNC Park and Heinz Field.

At Monday's meeting, officials will lay out a three-step design process. A series of focus group meetings will follow in June and July, and then a second public meeting that hasn't been scheduled.

People who attend can sign up for one of six focus groups: residents; churches and social organizations; community organizations; city and public agencies; business and land owners, and developers; and historic preservation groups.

"It's in everyone's interest," said Greg Weimerskirch, a designer with Urban Design Associates, which was hired to help run the meetings. "The Penguins and city want to bring everybody on board from the beginning."

Additional Information:

Planning time

The city Planning Department, city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority and the Penguins will have a public meeting to begin the master planning process for a new Uptown arena.

  • When: Monday, 6 p.m.

  • Where: Igloo Club, Mellon Arena. Enter at Gate 3, the main entrance facing Downtown.

  • Parking: Free spaces in the South Lot, across Centre Avenue from Epiphany Church.

  • More information: Urban Design Associates, 412-263-5200, .

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