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Fans impressed by Consol's technology

Tom Hall couldn't get a seat next to his wife and her family for the Penguins' home opener Thursday night at Consol Energy Center, so he sent her photos and text messages from his smart phone instead.

That kind of communication wasn't always so easy across the street at Civic Arena.

"It's a lot better," Hall, 32, of Greensburg, said. "The other arena was a dungeon. You couldn't get anything."

Technology at Consol Energy Center brings the game closer to fans, with more than 800 flat-screen televisions, 250 Internet access points and more cameras, including one embedded in the dasherboards.

A 20-minute opening ceremony last night included lights, loud music and video on the 20-foot-by-15-foot, four-sided monitor over center ice.

Even when Jeremy Shafter, 37, stepped out to get a Primanti Bros. sandwich minutes into the first period, he could stand in the concourse and watch several television monitors or look into the open bowl at the main screen.

"You don't miss anything," he said between bites.

Joe Johnston, 29, of Upper St. Clair, said he has downloaded Pittsburgh Penguins Mobile — developed by YinzCam, Inc., a Carnegie Mellon spin-off company — but hadn't yet explored all the options for replay and live statistics. He said he plans to spend the rest of the season figuring it out.

"It's gonna be sweet," he said, adding that the new building also will be an adjustment.

Consol Energy Center makes Penguins Mobile features available from every seat for the first time, YinzCam CEO Priya Narasimhan said.

Before the game and between periods, fans tried out other gadgets throughout the building.

Andy Ream, 13, and his brother pulled up video and stats on defenseman Paul Coffey from one of 20 giant interactive trading cards inside the Trib Total Media Gate, at the building's northwest corner.

Nearby, Alicia Demchak, 30, of Mars checked out the names on a virtual image of the Stanley Cup that spins around. She once saw the real Cup but couldn't get as close.

Other fans stood in front of the $2 million Verizon studio, which tracks Twitter messages being sent across North America to show what Penguins-related words are showing up most often in different geographic areas. For a while, team owner Mario Lemieux's name was the most common Tweet coming out of Ontario.

Andrea Maschak, 31, watched the board, with Civic Arena visible outside through a wall of windows. The architecture of that building made it special, she said, but the technology in the new building has improve the fan experience.

"It just makes it seem like we're in the 21st Century," she said, "instead of the 1970s."

Photo Galleries

Penguins vs. Flyers Opening Night at Consol Energy Center

Penguins vs. Flyers  Opening Night at Consol Energy Center

The Penguins lose to the Flyers, 3-2, on opening night at Consol Energy Center Thursday October 7, 2010.

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