Because it may be the only football we see played in 2011 due to the now ongoing NFL Lockout, I decided to check out the first Pittsburgh Power game on Friday night. Well, because of that, and also because I was curious. I had heard good things about the in-person experience for Arena games in the past and wanted to see it for myself, so I went in with what I thought were reasonable expectations.
I did not come out disappointed.
The Power ended up losing the game to Philadelphia in overtime, 58-52, thanks to an interception return for a touchdown. That after the final 58 seconds of regulation saw one touchdown, two onside kicks, a safety, a goal-line stand and a game-tying 39-yard field goal from former Chicago Bear Paul Edinger as time expired. Think of this as a cross between football, the WWE and a monster truck rally all played on a surface the size of an NHL rink. It’s complete madness. If you like defense and running the football (and if you’re from Pittsburgh, I’m guessing you do), this is probably not your game.
It’s all offense, all passing, and non-stop scoring. It’s also incredibly fast.
I’m not sure how well it will translate to TV, and I can’t say I have much (if any) of a rooting interest in the team, but it’s not a bad way to spend a Friday or Saturday night. Are there better ways? Sure. But some people probably think there’s a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon rather than watching football.
Long-time Civic Arena/Mellon Arena/Consol Energy Center staple Jeff Jimerson performed the National Anthem and received his usual loud ovation, while Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett did the pre-game coin toss. His reception was not quite as welcoming, receiving a seemingly never-ending chorus of boos fresh off his massive state-wide budget cuts. I’m not sure who thought inviting him was a good idea, but, well … it wasn’t. The guy in front of us joked that he’d probably keep the coin.
But enough of that, let’s get on to the experience…
Ticket Prices/Bang For Your Buck: B-/C+
This is a tough one to grade because it simply depends on which price level you purchased. We paid $15 for general admission seats (pretty much the entire upper level, minus a couple of sections in the middle) and came away with seats like this…
We could have sat closer, but because of the design of the CEC you enter the sections from the top (allowing for open concourses the entire way around, so you never miss the game when you get up to hit the bathroom or concession stand) so I always figured it was better, and easier, to sit near the top of the section. And it still allows for a great vantage point as there’s not a bad seat in the building.
For me, the $15 price tag was well worth it, and I’d give that an A grade. The most expensive thing we paid for all night was parking (most of the garages close to the arena are $20, standard event rates for the CEC, but you can find cheaper lots and on-street parking all the way up and down Fifth Avenue).
The general admission seats are a great value, and I don’t think you would come away disappointed if you paid $25 for the reserved upper level seats (pretty much at mid-field) or the $35 lower level end zone seats, which are also conveniently positioned directly behind the Pittsburgh Power Dance Team, The Sparks, at both ends of the field (yes, they have cheerleaders).
The problem, however, is that the rest of the lower level seats, as well as the seats along the front row, are a bit too overpriced. Way overpriced, actually. The remainder of the lower level prices range from $50 to $180, and not surprisingly, those were the sections that had the largest chunks of empty seats.
The $180 seats are the front rows along the sidelines, and if you sit there, you better be ready to catch a player or a football. At least four different times on Friday a player ended up, at least in part, in the seats. Good news: You can keep the football. Still, that’s a pretty steep price, even if you have the ability to be less than an arms length away from players and referees.
Bottom line: go with the cheaper seats and I’d give the bang for your buck an A. Had I paid over $100 I would have come out giving it something along the lines of a D or a C-. I mean, come on, I paid that much for Stanley Cup Final tickets two years ago and was OK with it. Not Arena Football.
Straub Beer: The Official Beer of the Pittsburgh Power
Before Penguins games I typically kill time in the hotel lobby of the Marriot City Center across the street where they set up tubs of beer for $3 (a better deal than the $7.75 inside the arena). They were there on Friday, but only selling one beer: Straub. The Official Beer of the Pittsburgh Power. This is just personal taste but Straub, to me, is water with less flavor.
Once you get inside the arena, however, you have more choices (though more expensive). If you’re sitting in the upper deck be sure to check out the Brew House and Smoke House directly behind sections 206 and 207 for a wider selection of suds and some pretty good sandwiches. You can also get mixed drinks if you’re into that.
Crazy Ass Rules
My heavens, where to begin. You can complete passes off the net, off of the boards, and the clock doesn’t stop for incompletions or out of bounds until the last minute of each half. Also: If you’re winning in the final two minutes and don’t advance the football forward, the clock stops, so there’s no taking a knee. This almost cost Philadelphia in the Fourth Quarter trying to close out the game with a one-point lead. The Power had just two timeouts remaining, and after failing to recover an onside kick, Philadelphia had the football inside the 10-yard line. On their first play the Soul attempted a run and lost yardage, essentially giving Pittsburgh a free timeout. From there, the Power made a goal-line stand and had a chance to take the lead at the end of regulation. On fourth down of the ensuing drive, however, quarterback Bernard Morris (from Marshall) was sacked for a safety. With only 12 seconds left the game appeared to be over, but Pittsburgh attempted its second onside kick in the final minute (and third of the game, if you can believe it) and recovered it, allowing it to get into position for Paul Edinger to kick a game-tying field goal.
And this all happened in the final 56 seconds.
Quality Of Play
Let’s face it, you’re not seeing the Steelers and Ravens play here, so it’s clearly a lesser quality of football. And while the talent level is what it is, it’s still an amazingly fast game. The speed is incredible. Put 16 players on a small field with a football with no out of bounds and it’s going to be nuts. Again, I don’t know if that translates well to TV, but in person it’s definitely not boring.
The PA announcer definitely gives the game a minor league feel (and this is where the WWE/Monster Truck Rally aspect comes in) by giving players nicknames and screaming into the microphone all night. A typical play is “BERNARD THE QUARTERBACK MORRIS COMPLETING A PASS TO JASON WHAT’CHOO TALKIN’ ABOUT WILLIS FOR ANOTHER POWER FIRST DOWN!”
I’ll also say this: It’s very fan and kid friendly. Example: After the game they allowed you to go on the field and get autographs from players, so that’s a definitely a nice touch and a good way to get people interested.
Lynn Swann, Ladies and Gentlemen
As you may already know, Lynn Swann is part of the ownership group and he was at the game on Friday. Here he is speaking to the crowd at halftime…
They also sell Swann ’88′ Power jersey’s, and I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
They also gave away these amazingly creepy posters on the way into the arena.
So there you have it. Overall, it was a pretty fun night, and again, it’s not a terrible way to spend a relatively cheap (again, depending on where you sit) Friday or Saturday night and get a few hours of entertainment. I mean, it’s better than a Pirates game.
Will I go back? Probably. Will I recommend it? Yes, but only if you pay between $15 and $35 for your tickets.
Here are a few more pictures from the night…