Plans to build the $48 million Petersen Events Center came to a crashing halt last Friday as federal funding fell through. The promised $38 million from Governor Tom Ridge had to be rerouted to a federal emergency relief fund in order to balance a budget deficit that previously went unnoticed. The Petersen Events Center was set to open in late 2001 or early 2002 and host Panther basketball games and special events. While the 12,000 seat Events Center will not be built, Pitt will still use the remaining $10 million donation from John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen for the opening of new student housing, campus greenery, and the new John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen Crack House.
“The Crack House is the most technologically advanced of its kind. It not only serves as a resource for students to come and get high, but also provides an environment where students can manufacture, promote, distribute, and recover from crack,” Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg proclaimed at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “While we are disappointed with the loss of the Events Center, the Crack House is, a momentous achievement for the University and its crack addicts.”
Pitt benefactor John M. Petersen had "no problem" with the design of the new Crack House. “I realize cocaine is not as popular as it was in my day. Crack is a lot cheaper and more accessible. However, it is the role of the University to adapt and develop with the times and not remain stagnant in our drug use. Crack also offers a more accessible high to our poor and minority students, while cocaine has traditionally been used by the more financially secure student. The [Petersen] Crack House is a blessing to this University,” Petersen issued in a statement to the Chancellor.
The Petersen Crack House has eight luxury crack rooms designed for getting high. They are equipped with plush couches, 32-inch Sony Televisions, and wall-to-wall carpeting. Also in the building is 3,000 square feet for product development, 2,000 square feet for market research, four offices for crack outreach, three recovery rooms equipped with IV bags, adrenaline shots, and heart rate monitors, and a Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC combo restaurant that will accept Dining Dollars.
The “crown jewel” of the Crack House will be the Alumni Reception Center. Pitt Basketball Coach Ben Howland has praised the center as a “recruiting gem.”
“Now players will see that we are interested in their post-Pitt plans. Once players graduate or attempt to enter the NBA draft, and their subsequent professional dreams are crushed, they can come back to the nurturing University environment and get high. Normally these ex-players would be on the street or in run-down crack houses in dangerous environments. Now they can retire in state of the art facilities with such former Panther greats as Mark Blount, Jerry McCullough, Chad Varga, and Jerome Lane. Imagine sitting next to Jerome as he injects a needle into his arm and the glass shatters. I get chills just thinking of the possibilities,” Howland told members of the press.
The architects for the Petersen Crack House are Apostolou Associates of Pittsburgh and Rosser International of Atlanta. The Petersen Crack House is slated to open this spring. Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson denied comment on the issue.