Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Home Sweet Dome

For a half-century, Pittsburgh’s iconic Mellon Arena, an engineering marvel and shining symbol of the city’s post-war renaissance, has hosted championship teams, all-stars, icons and legends. Now, the landmark is ready for a swan song of its own. Join us for a last look back at life under the dome we called home.



A new landmark in an evolving city, the arena foregrounds a 1960s-era skyline.

Photos courtesy Senator John Heinz History Center and Frank Fuhrer Distributors

(page 1 of 2)

Inside the heart of every Pittsburgher is a shiny dome. You know it as the Civic Arena, Mellon Arena or “The Igloo.” Of all the buildings that make up the city’s signature skyline, few have had more of an impact on our lives. If you’ve grown up in the Pittsburgh region, most likely you can name the concerts, games and events you’ve attended beneath its silver dome.

A lot has changed since the Civic Arena first opened its doors in 1961. Throughout that timeframe—nearly a half century—Pittsburgh has become famous for many things. Light opera is not exactly one of them. But that very art form helped to build the structure that fans would later come to know as Mellon Arena and “The Igloo” with its rich, storied and sometimes magical history.The Civic Arena  anticipates a 1974 tennis playoff between the Pittsburgh Triangles and  the Detroit Loves. An open arena was a common sight during these  matches, which were held during the summer months.

In the mid-1940s, Edgar Kaufmann, the Kaufmann’s department store magnate, grew tired of sitting in the rain during Civic Light Opera performances at the University of Pittsburgh’s stadium. He pledged $1 million of his own money to help build the CLO a new home—but with one condition: The new facility had to include a retractable roof so he and other patrons could enjoy performances under the stars.

At about the same time, Pittsburgh Mayor David L. Lawrence was pushing his Renaissance initiative and was desperately looking for a way to show the country that Pittsburgh had shed its “Smoky City” image. What better way than to build a massive, open-air structure unlike any other in the world?

“When it was first designed, it was a fabric-roofed, single-use structure intended only for the CLO,” says Pittsburgh-based architect Rob Pfaffmann, who is leading the preservation effort to save the building. But when they actually thought about what Pittsburgh needed, that’s when they went to the ‘hard top’ design … for a lot of different uses.”

As Pfaffmann goes on to say, “That was the first time people used architecture to show that we had changed as a city. It really put Pittsburgh on the map.” (Check out Pfaffmann’s alternative plan).

The highlight of the design by Pittsburgh architects Mitchell and Ritchey was the retractable roof, which was—and still is—truly an architectural achievement. It’s constructed of eight metal sections, which are supported by a cantilever arm—the half-arch that looms over the dome. Six of the eight sections rest on enormous steel wheels, which roll on top of a monorail-like track. To open the roof, motors pull the six retractable sections underneath the two stationary sections, revealing the Pittsburgh skyline to the audience in just more than two minutes.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

My Favorite Room with Heather Abraham

Each issue, HOME goes inside the room of one of our favorite Pittsburghers.

Look Inside a Home That's a True Gateway to Pittsburgh

After 50 years away, Dick and Vicki Mallary returned to Pittsburgh and spent years painstakingly remodeling a condo in the heart of Downtown.

This Old Pittsburgh House: A Ghost in the Library

It's said that the mischievous spirit of Amanda Bayne Balph still haunts the red brick Victorian home in Bellevue.

“Trocking” Along: Living the Art-Filled Life in Pittsburgh

Patricia Sheahan’s home in the Brewhouse Art Lofts on the South side doubles as a gallery space showcasing her collection of art, antique finds and roadside treasures.

Down to Earth is the Hottest Trend at High Point Market

Get the scoop on the furnishing and decor trends to come out of the influential High Point Market trade show, including a return to natural materials.

Winter 2019: Things We Love

Here are the local gems worth obsessing over.

The Best New Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2018

Our dining critic picks the eight top openings of 2018 and suggests one more to keep an eye on.

A Guide to Under-21 College Nightlife in Pittsburgh

Guest blogger Sarah Connor helps college kids head out at night, whatever their birth year.

The 400-Word Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The animated wing of Spider-Man's movie world proves to be a groundbreaking step in animation.

New Venue To Serve as Downtown's Home for Magic

The intimate venue will offer close-up, "parlour" magic shows for small audiences beginning in February.

Watch: Rocky Bleier's “Heart Ripped Out” by Steelers

In a blunt public assessment, unusual from a former player, Bleier opens his video by declaring that he's “done” with the Steelers. Then he takes aim at the kicker and the coaching staff.

Historic Larimer Schoolhouse Will Graduate to Apartment Complex

Federal funds will be used to turn to the vacant Romanesque-style building into 35 mixed-income apartments.

First Look: Seasons in Etna

David Bulman’s hyper-local, 12-seat restaurant has the potential to become a dining destination.

Pittsburgh Rings, Sings and Dances into the New Year

“Highmark’s First Night Pittsburgh” features 100 performances for kids of all ages and, of course, fireworks for everyone.

The 400-Word Review: At Eternity's Gate

It's a fair Vincent Van Gogh biopic, but fails to make a strong impression.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


New Venue To Serve as Downtown's Home for Magic

New Venue To Serve as Downtown's Home for Magic

The intimate venue will offer close-up, "parlour" magic shows for small audiences beginning in February.

Comments

Watch: Rocky Bleier's “Heart Ripped Out” by Steelers

Watch: Rocky Bleier's “Heart Ripped Out” by Steelers

In a blunt public assessment, unusual from a former player, Bleier opens his video by declaring that he's “done” with the Steelers. Then he takes aim at the kicker and the coaching staff.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
First Look: Seasons in Etna

First Look: Seasons in Etna

David Bulman’s hyper-local, 12-seat restaurant has the potential to become a dining destination.

Comments

Apteka and Whitfield Team Up for a Vegan Christmas Meal

Apteka and Whitfield Team Up for a Vegan Christmas Meal

The latest installment of Bethany Zozula's Sharing Knives dinner series brings Apteak co-owners Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski in for an Eastern European feast.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Don’t resign yourself to the gym treadmills just yet – fall is one of the best times of the year to get outside and pound the pavement, surrounded by falling leaves and the possibility of grabbing a hot latte on the way home.

Comments

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

We dove into the local artisan bread scene to find the best places that bake naturally leavened bread in Pittsburgh.

Comments


A Guide to Under-21 College Nightlife in Pittsburgh

A Guide to Under-21 College Nightlife in Pittsburgh

Guest blogger Sarah Connor helps college kids head out at night, whatever their birth year.

Comments

At Jergel's, It's Beers and Grub Near Some Rock and Roll

At Jergel's, It's Beers and Grub Near Some Rock and Roll

The Warrendale venue makes seeing a show feel like an easygoing night out.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
When I Realized the True Meaning of the Army-Navy Game

When I Realized the True Meaning of the Army-Navy Game

As Army veteran and Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva sees it, Army-Navy is football at its core in a setting that transcends the sport.​

Comments

Trust in Roethlisberger Remains Steelers’ Best Option

Trust in Roethlisberger Remains Steelers’ Best Option

We’re about to find out if that late-game meltdown in Denver last week was an aberration or a revelation.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The 400-Word Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The animated wing of Spider-Man's movie world proves to be a groundbreaking step in animation.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: At Eternity's Gate

The 400-Word Review: At Eternity's Gate

It's a fair Vincent Van Gogh biopic, but fails to make a strong impression.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Overseas Adventures Lead to Pittsburgh Weddings

Overseas Adventures Lead to Pittsburgh Weddings

These couples made the trip that would take them from dating to engaged.

Comments

On Theme Weddings with Style

On Theme Weddings with Style

These brides went beyond a color scheme for their wedding day to work in an entire theme.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Historic Larimer Schoolhouse Will Graduate to Apartment Complex

Historic Larimer Schoolhouse Will Graduate to Apartment Complex

Federal funds will be used to turn to the vacant Romanesque-style building into 35 mixed-income apartments.

Comments

Allegheny County Could Pay You to Convert Your Wood Burning Fireplace

Allegheny County Could Pay You to Convert Your Wood Burning Fireplace

In the hopes of reducing air pollution and improving indoor air quality — particularly for those with asthma — the county health department is conducting a program to convert open-hearth fireplaces into vented gas-burning appliances.

Comments