ON THIS DAY: December 18, 2001, Ice rink at PPG Place grand opening

PITTSBURGH — The Rink at PPG Place first opened on Dec. 18, 2001. The rink was a dramatic re-imagining of the plaza for the holiday season and quickly became a major downtown attraction during Pittsburgh’s winter months.

For the 2015-16 season, the rink was further expanded by 25%. It is 67% larger than the famous Rockefeller Center ice rink in New York City, and about two-thirds the size of a standard National Hockey League rink.

Grand opening festivities included a routine from Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano. Penguins owner Mario Lemieux and Steelers Hall of Famer Lynn Swann also helped break in the ice.

PPG Place, known as the “crown jewel” in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle skyline, celebrated its groundbreaking on Jan. 28, 1981, as part of the city’s “Renaissance II” period. It is the third-tallest building in the city.

PPG Place would eventually occupy 5½ acres adjacent to downtown’s historic Market Square and serve as the company’s headquarters. Offices would start opening just 2½ years after construction began.

Internationally-renowned architect Philip Johnson worked with John Burgee Architects to design a complex centered on a neo-Gothic 40-story office tower glazed with 19,750 pieces of glass, measuring about 1 million square feet. The high-performance neutral silver glass (made by PPG, of course) reflects solar heat gain in summer while minimizing the need for artificial light and air conditioning.

There are five other buildings in the complex, surrounding a one-acre plaza with a large water feature and an obelisk known by some as the “Tomb of the Unknown Bowler” due to the four large, black balls that support it.

The complex also boasts a Wintergarden that serves as a year-round oasis of green on the west side of the main tower.

PPG Place has a total of 231 spires, rising as high as 82 feet on the corners of the main tower, that are intended to connect Pittsburgh’s architectural heritage, such as the Allegheny County Courthouse and Cathedral of Learning, to the newer gleaming high-rise buildings downtown.

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