On my way to work I caught a glimpse of the crumpling Civic Arena in my rear view mirror. The site caught me completely off guard. At first I didn’t know what I was seeing and then I realized what it was by the location that I was in.


For me the Civic Arena was a huge part of the Pittsburgh landscape. How unique that a building of that size could have a roof that opens. The Arena will soon be history right along with Isaly’s on the boulevard, West View Park and Saks Fifth Avenue (Pittsburgh).

Before Saks closed last month I went in to search for a SFA snow globe. I wanted one like the one I bought for my sister. It featured the Pittsburgh skyline with the PPG building and the Civic Arena. They had snow globes, but they had been updated and the Civic Arena was gone. This was prior to the demolition beginning.

Recently I made another visit to the Teenie Harris exhibit at the Carnegie. Among the hundreds of photographs towards the end of the photo display there are several pictures of the Arena, they begin with the groundbreaking and end with a photo of a Labor Day celebration honoring A. Philip Randolph. He is standing on the balcony of the Arena and is surrounded by clergy, including Rev. J.A. Williams and Rev. Charles H. Foggie.

I didn’t get a souvenir from the Arena, but on second thought maybe I did. My high school graduation was at the iconic building and I have several pictures and nothing but good memories from my visits there. The Ice Capades with my late father, my first visit to the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baileys Circus, and seeing Isaac Hayes and Luther Vandross sing. I saw my first and only hockey game at the Arena and truly enjoyed it. I had planned to take a picture of the building before it was destroyed, but I never got around to it.

In Station Square there is a Nevin Robinson kiosk, Robinson is an ink and pen sketch artist and photographer. There is a good selection of photos of the Arena on his art cart. If you are looking for something related to Pittsburgh this is the place to go and find it. Speaking of photographs among my SFA souvenirs is a photo of the SFA sign outside of the Pittsburgh store. Little did I know when I bought it that it would become a keepsake. I found the photo for sale at a display at the City Theatre and it is now hanging in my bathroom.

There are a lot of people that are happy that the Arena is soon to be history. At this time my feelings are still mixed. I am anxious to see what will be in that large empty space. Will it be a mix of homes, office and retail space? Do we really need more retail? Will it be another parking area? It is prime real estate and the young and wealthy want to move closer to town. I can see beautiful condos and town homes in that area, but I will always see the Arena in the shadows.

(Email the columnist at deb­bie­norrell@aol.com)

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