he CONSOL Energy Center is the NHL’s newest arena. It’s big - but not too big. It’s shiny. It’s constructed of steel and glass and built into the side of a hill next to a church. From its main concourses, it offers sweeping views of neighborhoods and skyscrapers, bridges and hills. It’s right down the street from a hospital and a university. It’s a green, LEED gold-certified building that was completed on time and under budget. It contains original art, futuristic technology, cheap donuts and possibly the world’s largest goalie mask. On hockey nights, it features the three-time Stanley Cup winning Penguins and 18,087 of their wildly loyal (yet surprisingly friendly) fans. The CONSOL Energy Center isn’t just a new building in Pittsburgh. It is Pittsburgh.
Destiny’s New Home The CONSOL Energy Center opened in August 2010 to much fanfare in the city (led by a pervasive marketing campaign declaring “Destiny Has A New Home”) and around the NHL. A multi-purpose building, it replaces the aging Civic Arena/Mellon Arena as the city’s go-to entertainment venue for large concerts, collegiate sports, circuses, skating shows and the like. But for most Pittsburghers, and for hockey fans everywhere, the CONSOL Energy Center is first and foremost the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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The heart of the CONSOL Energy Center, according to Penguins equipment manager Dana Heinze, is the Penguins locker room. Here, the players and coaches of one of the NHL’s most popular teams build each other up for games, strategize between periods, celebrate their victories, and share the frustrations of the almost-victories and painful (yet blessedly rare) outright losses. Here, the lockers of young stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc Andre-Fleury and Kris Letang are crowned by a mural depicting some of the players and coaches who did these things before them - men with names like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Bob Johnson - below a domed ceiling that memorializes the Penguins’ former arena. Because in Pittsburgh, no matter how promising the future may look, you don’t forget where you came from.
A Great Day for Hockey As the CONSOL Energy Center began to take shape, the Penguins asked James Frederick, owner of the James Gallery in Pittsburgh’s West End, to serve as its art consultant. The Penguins had an ambitious plan for the new Center, involving art of all sizes in various media – some of it interactive – celebrating the team’s history, its stars, its fans, the Pittsburgh region and the team’s future. The art would be installed throughout the Center, in public spaces as well as in the private boxes, and in the spaces reserved for team, press and administrative use.
Left: Mural of quotes from popular Penguins radio broadcaster Mike Lange. Above: All-Time Team mural (above lockers). Below: Michael’s first project for the Penguins; installed above the player’s stick rack, it is one of the last things they see before hitting the ice.
“The Pens gave very concise, good direction that we could follow,” Frederick says. “They knew what they wanted.”
Mike Lange, intended for the Center’s media level, the motivational sayings “Either You’re In Or You’re In the Way” (for the Pens’ strength and conditioning center) and “Those Who Think They Do Too Much Often Do Too Little (for the warm-up area), a “Welcome to the Medial Level” sign – and the 93 foot long, almost 2 foot high “All-Time Team” mural that circles the Pens’ locker room, at the Center’s very heart.
To accomplish everything that the Penguins envisioned, James chose 20 art professionals, the majority of them established regional artists. Seton Hill alumnus Michael Rubino made the list after a referral Finding your way around from the post-production house in the CONSOL Energy Phenomenon, with which Center is a snap thanks Michael has worked closely to Barbara Kerestes through his position at the Martin ’80 and her Pittsburgh marketing and company, KMA Design, who advertising firm BrabenderCox.
The All-Time Team
It’s fitting that the Penguins chose Michael to design the “All-Time Team” locker room designed the signage for mural. As a southwestern Pa. the Center. Barbara The first project Michael native who chose to stay in completed for the Center, received the Distinguished Pittsburgh to begin his career in August 2010, was a large Alumni Leadership Award in graphic design, he undertypographical treatment of from Seton Hill in 2010. stands the region’s past and has the saying “It’s A Great Day for been active, both politically and Hockey.” This well-known quote artistically, in helping to guide its from “Badger” Bob Johnson, the future. Also, he’s been a Pens fan popular Penguins head coach who all of his life. led the team to their first Stanley Cup victory in the 1990-91 season, has since been installed “I grew up with the Penguins,” he says. “My parents above the players’ stick rack. had season tickets – they’d leave us with the babysitter and go to the games.” The Penguins liked Michael’s work on the “It’s A Great Day for Hockey” project so much that they offered him five more projects: a floor-to-ceiling mural consisting of quotes from iconic Penguins radio broadcaster
While Michael describes designing the mural as “a dream come true,” he admits it was an especially
Playing His Game ichael always knew he wanted a career in art. He came to Seton Hill because of its art program, and he graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design. While at Seton Hill, he was editor-in-chief of the literary-art magazine Eye Contact, a popular cartoonist and contributing writer for The Setonian, a dedicated blogger, and the founder of the Seton Hill College Republicans. Michael was also active in political campaigns, which led to a graphic design internship with BrabenderCox, a political and commercial marketing firm with offices in Pittsburgh. After graduation the company hired him as a part-time designer; he now works full-time for the firm, in both print and web design. “I love it,” he says of his job. He particularly enjoys seeing the impact marketing and advertising campaigns have on political campaigns. “Not every designer gets to see the affect of their work.” Michael calmly juggled multiple priorities and projects as a student; if anything, he’s gotten even better at it as a young professional. In addition to his full-time job and freelance design work he also serves as a staff writer, film critic and podcast commentator for DVDVerdict, is a member of the Cellar Dwellers improv comedy troupe, is one of the creators, writers and performers of the “Dodge Intrepid and the Pages of Time” radio serial podcast, and had his photography featured in “Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania,” published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2009. In addition, he recently had his first big success as a playwright. “It was a goal of mine to write a play ever since I took playwriting as part of my creative writing minor at Seton Hill,” Michael says. “A one-act play that I wrote, ‘Drop It,’ was selected for production in the Pittsburgh New Works Festival. This was my first produced play and I was really honored to be a part of this festival. It was in rehearsal at the same time as I was working on the All-Time Team mural, so for two weeks I’d go to work, go to rehearsal, then go home and work on the mural until the middle of the night.”
challenging project. The mural features images of 21 legendary players and coaches that had to be presented in the most engaging and respectful way possible. It had to be designed so that it could be printed easily on a wallpaper-like substance that could be installed (in sections) around the oval locker room with no interruptions in the design. It had to look good on TV, and complement the other art and design features in the room. And a whole lot of people in the Penguins organization had to like it before it came anywhere near the walls of the space that has often been described as “sacred.” Michael’s talent, sacrifice of sleep (see “Playing His Game,” left) and knowledge of the team paid off. After creating one section of the mural and submitting it for approval, the Penguins gave him the green light to complete the entire piece. Using disks of archival photos provided by the Penguins, Michael painstakingly pieced the full mural together. “It ended up that each person got four feet, roughly, [that included] one primary photo, two secondary photos and type treatment of their name,” he says. “I did a lot of independent studies as a senior at Seton Hill, and that helped prepare me. It was important to understand the math, to design something at a certain size and understand how it would look when printed on a much larger scale.” Michael completed the mural in two weeks. “It was a great experience,” he says. “I learned a lot, especially from the company in Washington [County, Pa.] that printed and installed the mural. I’m happy with how it turned out.” Michael has reason to be proud. The Penguins’ new locker room is widely-considered the best in the NHL, and the “All-Time Team” mural is a hit with the team and the fans alike. “We wanted a tribute somewhere in the player’s area and he [Head Coach Dan Bylsma] thought it would be great to have that in the locker room itself,” Heinze told pittsburghpenguins.com. “I think the graphic designers really nailed the design. It has that ‘wow factor.’ That’s pretty special to come in and see that.”
Article by Becca Baker WPF ‘02, Seton Hill associate director of marketing, photos by Bruce Siskawicz, Seton Hill graphic design certificate alumnus and professional photographer.
Forward magazine would like to thank Brian Magness, director, CONSOL Energy Center Project Development, and James Frederick, owner, James Gallery, for their help with this article and the CONSOL Energy Center photo shoot.
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