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’Burgh’s Civic Arena Project Nears Completion

Wed June 06, 2012 - Northeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

Oxford-Chester LLC photo
Doosan and Case excavators were among the heavy machinery on the site.
Oxford-Chester LLC photo Doosan and Case excavators were among the heavy machinery on the site.
Oxford-Chester LLC photo
Doosan and Case excavators were among the heavy machinery on the site. Oxford-Chester LLC photo
The demolition project began in August 2011. Oxford-Chester LLC photo
Crews prepare the roof for the demolition. Oxford-Chester LLC photo
At one time the arena housed the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Ice Capades, circuses and concerts.

The demolition of a unique building in Pittsburgh is nearing its completion, marking the end of more than 50 years of events that totaled more than 7,000. Piece by piece over the last nine months, the Mellon Arena came down.

The demolition project, which called for full demolition, abatement and site grading of the arena, began on Aug. 8, 2011. The full contract of $2,909,000 was awarded to Noralco Corporation, where George Boehm serves as the vice president. Manpower at the site averages between 40 and 50 workers.

Sustainability has been a major emphasis in the project.

“The owner of the facility, Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, is committed to sustainability in all development and construction work undertaken, so the project team has included requirements for waste diversion and air quality,” explained Michael Barnard, project manager of Oxford Development Company and the Sports & Exhibition Authority’s representative on the project.

“To date, many of the interior fixtures have been either sold for reuse, donated to local non-profits for repurposing or removed for salvage with the last resort being disposal in a landfill. Equipment utilized onsite by the contractor is to have the latest in available emissions controls and the project team is working to minimize travel distances for disposal of materials hauled from the site.”

Barnard noted that the most significant challenge for the project has been the abatement and dismantling of the domed roof.

“This is a unique building,” he said. “It has a 400-plus foot diameter dome with retractable leaves and an exterior stainless steel skin,” he said. “The design, as well as the asbestos materials in the roof, make it a challenging project for the contractors to deconstruct. The contractor accessed the roof via specialty scaffolding that moved along the arc of the roof to remove the skin and asbestos materials and then cut and dropped the remaining structure to the ground for recycling.”

A subcontractor on the project is Bristol Environmental, Bristol, Pa., for the roof abatement work and some of the hazardous material removal from the interior. Its subcontractor is Fullard Environmental, Ford City, Pa., for the interior asbestos abatement work.

Major equipment used by Noralco includes a Liebherr 964 with 95-ft. (29 m) of boom, a Caterpillar 330 with 75-ft. (23 m) of boom and a Sandvik 330 crusher.

Arena History

The building debuted in 1961 as the Civic Arena and was originally built to house the Civic Light Opera. It was renamed Mellon Arena in 1999.

The development cost for the arena was $20 million, and construction began on April 25, 1957. Originally built for a capacity of 10,500, the Civic Arena was later renovated to accommodate more than 17,000 patrons.

The structure was the only arena in the United Sates with a non-interior supported roof. It was supported by bases on motorized wheels mounted on a reinforced concrete ring girder 34 ft. (10 m) above the arena floor. The roof was the largest retractable stainless steel dome roof in the world, covering 170,000 total sq. ft. and including a reported 2,950 tons (2.676 t) of Pittsburgh steel.

The arena was home to the Pittsburgh Penguins and housed a variety of other events, such as World Wrestling entertainment, circuses, festivals and concerts.

The final concert at the Mellon Arena was held on June 26, 2010, and featured Carole King and James Taylor. Shortly after, the Penguins and all events moved to the new Consol Energy Center across the street.

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