The Civic Arena

Civic Arena

It was already called the “Mellon Arena” by this time, which old Pa Pitt always thought was a perfect parable of what was happening to American public life at the end of the twentieth century: what was built by the people, and named for the people, was handed over to a big corporation. Most Pittsburghers don’t remember that this was actually built as the Civic Auditorium, a new home for the Civic Light Opera. Sports were secondary in the original plans.

The Civic Arena was never beautiful in Father Pitt’s eyes, but it was impressive. The huge retractable dome—the world’s first—looked like an alien spacecraft that had landed on the Lower Hill, demolishing all the houses and business and so forth, as alien spacecraft tend to do when they land, because apparently space aliens are jerks.

Huge retractable domes turn out to be a nightmare to maintain, and the dome stopped retracting several years before the Arena was abandoned.

Father Pitt will now take a moment to praise the little camera that took these pictures in May of 2000. It was a Smena 8M from the legendary Soviet Lomo camera works, a cheap plastic box with a very good lens. There was nothing automatic about it; it had manual adjustments for shutter speed, aperture, and focus, and countless great Russian photographers learned the basics on cheap but capable cameras like these. Father Pitt was not a great fan of the Soviet Union, but he has always had a soft spot for Soviet cameras.

Mellon Arena

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