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Penguins officials offer arena sneak peek

| Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Penguins fans cheering from luxury suites in Pittsburgh's new arena will be able to ease into plush leather seats, enjoy beverages from a full refrigerator next to quartz countertops and access their own "instant replays" via a special touch-screen television.

Team executives Tuesday hosted the first show-and-tell of a sample suite, mid-level "loge box" and a scale model of the $321 million Consol Energy Center, which is slated to open in time for the 2010-11 hockey season.

"There's not an (arena) in the country that is going to have much on us here," team president David Morehouse said.

The 12-person suites go on sale today to current corporate suite-holders. After that, gold circle seat holders will have a chance to upgrade to a suite; club-level and season-ticket holders will be given a chance after that.

Suite prices will range from $115,000 to $150,000 a season, which includes access to the suites for 41 home games and about 150 events a year, including concerts and other shows. The new arena will have 66 suites — the number Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux wore as a player — including four party-sized venues for large groups.

The 440-square-foot suites are more than twice the size of the 53 suites in Mellon Arena, which are 212 square feet. Mellon Arena is the oldest NHL venue in North America.

Despite the larger number of high-end suites, Morehouse said 41 percent of the seats in the 18,087-seat arena will carry ticket prices below $50. The range of ticket prices is $22 for low-end seats — the low-end now is about the same — up to club-level seats that will range from $136 to $150.

About 3,000 seats will be available to each game for non-season-ticket holders, he said. The team has sold out 107 consecutive games over the past two seasons.

Morehouse said he has some concerns the recession could affect corporate suite sales, but market studies have shown strong interest so far.

"We think the reason we sold out suites in the oldest building in North America is that people are queuing up for suites in the new building," Morehouse said.

Aside from the in-suite "instant replay" touch screens, the new arena will offer other high-tech amenities including the "Yinz Cam," a system developed at Carnegie Mellon University researchers that will allow fans to view video of the game from various vantage points on their cell phones, Morehouse said.

An LED screen on the exterior of the arena will show game footage of playoff and away games.

This summer, fans will be able to visit the Penguins' Web site and view a rendering that shows their seat's view of the rest of the arena.

"This is going to be, technologically, one of the most advanced buildings in the country," Morehouse said.

Suite 66 is perhaps the arena's most exclusive touch. The team will turn a storage area under the seats and next to the players' tunnel to the bench into a seating area — equipped with a fireplace — for founding partners, naming-rights partners and other team executives.

People in Suite 66 will be able to watch players move to and from the bench a few feet away.

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