Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

The Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, PA opened to the public on September 19, 1961.  It was designed by Abe Wolk to be the home of the Civic Light Opera, giving the company a weather-proof place to perform.  When the CLO wanted to sing under open skies, the nearly 360-degree retractable roof was opened,  making it the only building in the world with this feature.  It was also the largest dome in the world at the time it was built, until that title was taken over by the Houston Astrodome.  I grew up outside of Pittsburgh, so to me, this is the arena that I most closely associate with the Grateful Dead.  Like the circus, The Dead always made the local news when they came to town.  The locals and the police were always grumbling to the reporters about people camping in the parking lots and wondering around without tickets.   Many Deadheads will remember the scuffle that occurred between police and the ticketless outside the arena on April 3, 1989, their last gig there before moving to Three Rivers Stadium in 1990.   The band first played the Civic Arena on April 12, 1971.  They played between here and the Stanley Theatre (now the Benedum Center) in the 70s and early 80s, but played the arena for the majority of the 80s.  Like the Spectrum, The Civic Arena is slated for demolition.   However, many Pittsburgh citizens have petitioned the City’s Historic Review Commission to declare the arena a historic architectural landmark, thus saving it from the wrecking ball. The outcome of this designation is still pending at this time.   The architectural features of this building are truly beautiful and innovative.   As you can see in the first picture, the  stainless-steel dome rises above the fence that surrounds the arena.  This dome is a fully retractable dome and stands without internal supports, thanks to a 260-foot cantilever arm.  The arm is a striking architectural feature unto itself.  The next photo shows a side view of the arm, the rough industrial structure exposed.  Steel and industry, a perfect symbol of Pittsburgh.  The shiny, compact dome always reminded me of a spaceship that was about to take off, the arm retracting as it flew off into the Phil Zone!  If you happen to be in town for the Pittsburgh date of the Furthur Spring Tour, please visit the Civic Arena on your way to Oakland.  Marvel at this historic structure and the many great Dead shows that happened under its beautiful little dome.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. grosvenorsquare
    Sep 04, 2011 @ 01:14:59

    An update of the historical status of the Civic Arena: The Historical Commission has voted against declaring the arena a historical structure, thus allowing the demolition of the arena to begin. However, a lawsuit is still pending and hopefully with halt the complete demolition from going through at the moment. Go to the “Reuse the Igloo” Facebook page for more information!


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