With an elevated dais stretching almost the entire length of the northern end of the arena floor — loaded with politicos, county officials and chamber officers — and the large screen above them that projected videos and crowd shots throughout the proceedings, the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Center provided a perfect setting for the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Friday.
Upwards of 400 chamber members and guests were seated comfortably at tables on the arena floor for the 101st annual event which was highlighted by Robert Nutting, principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who delivered the keynote address.
Indiana County Commissioner Chairman Rod Ruddock extended a public and personal “thank you” to Nutting for the Pirate organization’s special section seating, at a reduced cost, for servicemen and veterans. Ruddock then led the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Anyone who does something for vets is part of my team,” said Ruddock, a retired general in the U.S. Army.
One of the videos that Nutting showed was the work of Pirate Charities, the team’s philanthropic arm that is responsible for Miracle Field that is under construction on the grounds of the Indiana County YMCA in White Township. Nutting attended the groundbreaking for the field last summer and on Friday said he was eager to be here when the field holds its opening, projected for this spring.
For the past six years the Bucco’s owner has had to shoulder tons of criticism heaped on the ownership for more than 20 years of losing seasons.
Nutting admitted that mistakes in management were made in the past but now “we have a future and team we can all be proud of.”
There is no doubt that the Pirates fan base increased tremendously and putting a winner on the field sure does help. Look what is happening to the Steelers. There will be a lot of empty seats at Heinz Field this afternoon.
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And how about those Pittsburgh Penguins?
They are in the midst of a string of sellouts that has exceeded 300 games. That is incredible.
Fortunately, while golfing in the IUP Basketball Tournament last summer at the Indiana Country Club, our foursome won an auction of four tickets to a Penguin game. Thursday night, along with Scott Winters, John Ogden and Henry Minich, I journeyed to the Consol Energy Center and watched the Pens whip the San Jose Sharks, 5-1.
We all agreed: There is nothing like watching professional hockey live. The speed, precision passing and hard-hitting action cannot be captured on television. Included in the crowd of more than 18,500 was Indiana resident Paul Haines, who we ran into just prior to game time.
Exiting the building turned into an unexpected adventure, and we just happened to walk down a long stairwell through a “no exit” door and ended up in the bowels of the arena where offices, maintenance staff, media rooms and the Zamboni are housed.
It was interesting and did not take as long getting to a pizza place on Fifth Avenue, where incidentally, we ran into the officials who worked the game. Eh? (They were Canadians.)