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It's official -- Razing of arena starts Monday

Brian Bowling
| Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011

The demolition of the Civic Arena is scheduled to start at 6 a.m. on Monday, but the region will have plenty of time to say goodbye because the building won't be completely gone until May, the executive director of the Sports & Exhibition Authority said Friday.

"It will be a gradual process," Mary Conturo said.

A two-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals removed the last legal obstacle yesterday by refusing to grant Preservation Pittsburgh an emergency injunction to halt the demolition.

Scott Leib, president of the group, said the organization knew its lawsuit was a long shot and won't appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We're losing one of the most amazing and innovative structures in our city," he said. "It's a sad day."

Travis Williams, the Penguins' senior vice president of business affairs and general counsel, declined to comment on the ruling.

Carl Redwood, executive director of the Hill District Consensus Group, said his group is happy the arena will be torn down.

"It's a symbol of the destruction of our community 55 years ago," he said.

The consensus group, however, is more interested in what will replace the arena and who will pay for it.

"There's a lot of subsidies coming in for the Penguins and not much coming back to the community," Redwood said. "If the public pays for it, there has to be a clear public benefit."

Preservation Pittsburgh sued Conturo and officials with the city, county, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh and two federal agencies -- the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

The organization argued that the demolition violates the National Historic Preservation Act because the SEA is seeking federal money to help pay for the redevelopment of the site.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone agreed with the defendants that there is no federal activity at the site and, therefore, he didn't have jurisdiction over the project. The 3rd Circuit ruling agreed with Cercone in denying the injunction.

Conturo said the authority is "happy that the 3rd Circuit confirmed Judge Cercone's ruling."

She said the first step will be removing the asbestos from the roof. The initial phase probably will take until January.

Doug Straley, project executive of the SEA, said the demolition will start at the top of the roof. The first pieces will be lowered to the arena floor and taken out through the exits. About one-third of the way down, workers will start lowering the pieces over the outside of the dome, he said.

"They're basically going to take it apart," he said.

SEA plans to save at least three pieces of the roof for display -- one in the Heinz History Center; another at Consol Energy Center, which replaced the Civic Arena; and somewhere on the 28-acre site after it is redeveloped. The authority is setting aside the pylons and the terrazzo from the center ice area for possible use in the redevelopment, Straley said.

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