Happy holidays, everyone! It’s been a wonderful time with family (time that’s going to keep this post rather short), but in the spirit of giving (and okay, possibly just to gloat), I thought this week I’d share my Christmas gift of the year with you all: a visit to see my favorite Pittsburgh Penguins play a home game at the new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

Now in its second year, Consol feels far more in the heart of the city than the previous Civic Center, which had been the home of the Pens since their first season way back in 1967. Besides being a far more modern facility, Consol boosts the fan capacity to 18,000, a nice bump from the 17,000 or so from the old arena. For a team that’s now sold out 227 straight home games, every little extra seat counts.

Well, not always a seat, as was my case for the game. As you can imagine, frequent sellouts lead to high ticket prices, so to help make games more accessible, Consol offers standing room only seats for their upper sections. For around $50, you get a standing spot at a bar-like table at the top of your section. The good news is that even for “cheap seats”, the view from these SRO seats is fantastic. The whole “there’s not a bad seat in the house” thing is so cliche, but Consol has been designed to fit the mantra. The seats are well angled to prevent tall people from blocking your view, and the arena positioned its support columns strategically to be sure no one has to deal with obstructed views. Combined with excellent lighting, the on-ice action was easy to follow even several stories above the ice.

The beer and drink selection were solid. Consol is the first arena I’ve ever attended that isn’t beholden to either Pepsi or Coke for their sodas, partnering instead with RC Cola and Dr. Pepper. It’s a refreshing change of pace, though a let down for those who are loyal to either of the big two. Beer selection is impressively varied, from Canadian staple Labatt to the prerequisite Budweisers to classier fare like Stella Artois to local favorite Yuenglings all on draft. Add in a selection of bottles and cocktails and you have a pretty solid drink selection. Of course you can expect regular stadium prices ($5 for a soda, $7.50 for a beer, $4 for a hot dog), but at least you have options.

The best part, though, was the fans. I am biased, sure, but the Pittsburgh locals have really embraced the Pens in the Crosby-era. The energy when the Pens notched their first goal was electric, and it really reminded me why I love attending live sporting events. You simply can’t recreate the atmosphere of 18,000 fans cheering for their home team. Sure, it’s an expensive affair (the night for two was around $140 for tickets, parking, one soda, and some fries). But for the true fan, traveling to watch your favorite team at their home arena is an almost necessary pilgrimage, and one I am so thankful to have made this holiday season.

 

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