Virtual Consol is shooting for 'wow' factor

| Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010

Consol Energy Center is loaded with interactive and other high-tech features for visitors, from its three entry gates — American Eagle, Trib Total Media and Verizon — to the center scoreboard.

The All-Time Team display inside the Trib Total Media Gate at the northwest entry will look like a lineup of 20 giant player trading cards. Visitors can use touch screens on each card to look up details of All Time Team members, chosen by readers and Penguins fans.

"It's almost like going to a Penguins hall of fame, but it's all electronic," said Ralph Martin, president and CEO of Trib Total Media.

Virtual images of the Stanley Cup will appear in a nearby kiosk, where visitors can spin the cup around and view the names of champions. Hockey plays of the week, team standings and other tidbits also will be at the kiosk.

Three hockey puck-shaped rings with light-emitting diode, or LED, technology will hang from the ceiling inside the American Eagle Outfitters gate at the southwest corner. They'll display the retailer's logo and other messages, but when the Pens score, the 40-foot-wide rings will turn into flashing red sirens that passersby on Fifth Avenue can see.

Inside Verizon's gate on the northeast end, messages fans send via cellphone text or social media will flash on a giant screen and form a backdrop for Pens broadcasts from a studio there.

But the building's high-tech focal point will be its high-definition, ultra-high-contrast Mitsubishi Diamond Vision scoreboard, the first of its kind in a North American arena.

Crisp replays of that seconds-ago goal can be shown on each of its four sides, measuring 25 feet wide by 15 feet tall. Upper boards on each side will show scores and statistics.

Video rings at the top and bottom of the scoreboard — plus two sweeping stripes of video board that surround the arena's upper concourse and suite levels — will flash messages and graphics to add to the action. The video boards, rings and some other components were manufactured at Mitsubishi's plant in Marshall.

"We think people are going to be blown away," said Travis Williams, Penguins senior vice president.

Anywhere in the stands, fans can use YinzCam features on the Pens' mobile device application, or "app," presented by Verizon, to view alternate camera angles, replays and real-time stats on their own. YinzCam access was limited at the Civic Arena.

And at ice level, two LED dasher boards will show advertisements, switching every couple of minutes as play stops, said David Peart, the Pens' vice president of business partnerships.

There's more: Access to the building's 66 luxury suites will be controlled by bar code ticket scanners. "No longer will a suite holder have to rap on the door if it's locked," Peart said.

Dotting the concourses are 800 video screens that will show messages and the ongoing game, captured with HD cameras, Williams said. Even menus will appear on video boards, allowing concessions staff to mark down surplus hot dogs late in a game.

The gadgetry is meant to improve fans' experiences, not to be technology for technology's sake, Peart said. For hockey fans, "Your takeaway, whether the Pens win or lose, will be dramatically improved."

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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