When someone mentions the city of Pittsburgh, normally the first thought that comes to mind is its football team. The Steelers are woven into the fabric of the city, and it’s evident from the moment you enter the city. When you fly into Pittsburgh International Airport, as you go to pick up your bags, you will pass two statues, one of George Washington and the other of Franco Harris making the “Immaculate Reception.” If that doesn’t explain the way the people of Pittsburgh think, I’m not sure what does. The big ketchup bottle that the Steelers play in is one of great stadiums in the NFL. Heinz Field is perfect for the diehard football fan or for someone that just needs to see the great stadiums of the sports world.
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The bad news first, all concessions are expensive inside the stadium; it is the NFL after all. Beer will be between $7-$8 depending on where you get it; burgers ($8), foot long hot dogs ($6.75) and nachos grande ($7) are all on the upper end of the price range as well. You'll run into many local favorites, such as Primanti Bros. sandwiches and Quaker Steak and Lube wings. The easiest place to find these local favorites is in the Great Hall, the shrine dedicated to the Steelers championships. Also, all condiment stations are from the stadium namesake, and they even include jalapeńos to scoop onto your nachos or hot dogs.
There are a few new concession stands located throughout the stadium. Pub '33 is brand new in the Great Hall; it's a great place to watch the end or beginning of games in another town. There is an Old Fashioned Soda wagon now stationed in the open end of the field and a BBQ stand now at the top level in the closed end of the field.
The one thing that isn't exactly consistent is the quality of the food. The wings and Primanti sandwiches are always great, and the best quality food will be from the grill in the open end zone. The burgers and chicken sandwiches at the grill will be the best in the stadium. There are other items you can't be as sure about, though. Soft pretzels may or may not be soft; and a new item, Cajun cheese fries, are not nearly as good as the picture at the concession stand shows. These fries are loaded with cheese with just a little bit of Cajun seasoning sprinkled on top. Bottom line though, it won't matter whether you eat inside or outside the stadium, you won't leave hungry or wishing for better food.
The atmosphere at Heinz Field is everything that someone wants in an NFL game. The crowds will be large, and they take their football seriously. Before the starting lineups are announced, the Terrible Towels start waving, the fans start yelling and you'd think they all know every coach and player on the home team personally. The team management does a masterful job helping the fans get to this point as well. The Jumbotron will show amazing assortments of Steelers highlights as the team comes out and right before kickoff. The great thing is that it won't matter who the opponent is, the atmosphere will be better than almost anything you'll find anywhere else.
This type of atmosphere will continue on throughout the game. Every big play and bad call will be met with appropriate screen shots and chants from the crowd. It's no secret that Pittsburgh fans are nuts about their football, so don't be surprised if you hear less than desirable words at times, but that comes with just about any fan base.
Another bonus to the atmosphere you'll receive is when you walk through the Great Hall. This shrine is dedicated to the many successes of the organization. If nothing else, this is a great history lesson for those not familiar with the Steelers.
The atmosphere will start as soon as you get out of the car, though. Every surface lot will have tailgating as far as you can see with countless cornhole and beer pong games being played. The east side of the stadium will actually have carnival-type vendors set up for anyone who needs a pregame snack.
There is also pregame and post game parties at Stage AE in between Heinz Field and PNC Park. If you're a hardcore Steelers fan, there are even face painting booths set up both inside and outside the stadium. When you leave Heinz Field, you won't have to try hard to remember your experience.
Heinz Field is situated on Pittsburgh's north shore and shares a parking lot with PNC Park and Stage AE. There are several entertainment options before or after a game if tailgating is not your thing. A short walk away is the Rivers Casino and several great restaurants, such as Grille 36, Jerome Bettis's restaurant.
Just as with a game at PNC Park, downtown Pittsburgh is not very far away with good bars, restaurants and night life, including a very nice bar called Olive or Twist. To go along with this, there are several museums, including the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum if you want something really different. There is really something for everyone in this part of Pittsburgh, especially if you have time to explore.
Arguably some of the best fans in football, the people of Pittsburgh and fans of the Steelers make a game a very enjoyable experience. Like any other stadium, there is a wide range of fans, from the fan just wanting to be at the game to the incredibly crazy and very audible fan. To add to this, you won't find a city more attached to its team, or a fan-base more knowledgeable about the team and its players. You will hear fans affectionately yell at players by their first name and wave the Terrible Towel like it is their job. The ultimate cheer will be when there is the inevitable big moment in the second half while the Pittsburgh defense is on the field, and the Jumbotron will play a montage of big hits set to the Styx song "Renegade." The crowd will erupt when it knows this video is coming, and quite frankly, that sight is all you will need to sum up Pittsburgh fans.
This is the only part of the stadium experience that is really lacking. The stadium gets crowded and it's very hard to move around at times. The bathrooms are small, the concession lines are long, and you wait in line to get into the stadium. Since the NFL has short halftimes, it's nearly impossible to make it to the concessions and back to your seat before the start of the second half. Also, if you plan to go into the stadium just before kickoff or later, prepare to wait in a very large crowd to get through the gates. So, the tip here is to make sure you enter Heinz Field early so you don't miss any of the game.
Also, there is the parking situation. Normally, getting into Pittsburgh won't be entirely hateful, unless you're coming in very close to game time. Finding a lot to actually park in is much harder. Most lots close to the stadium will be for pre-paid customers (season ticket holders), and the lots you can pay to get into will run anywhere between $30-$50. The best place to park may be the garage at the Rivers Casino. In 2012, the initial cost will be $40; however, there are several ways for you to earn your money back just by being a member of their players club. On your way out, there will be countless policemen guiding you to the highway, so be prepared to sit in traffic again. The new addition to Pittsburgh's subway system may help, but that has yet to be seen.
The price of a ticket to get into Heinz Field is going to set you back, no matter where you sit. The upper end zone seats alone are $70 at face value. Most of the stadium is filled with season ticket holders, and those tickets that can be purchased at face value are few and far between. Game day at Heinz Field is really nothing less than a celebration. The atmosphere and pure joy from within the stadium can be felt well before the opening kickoff. It helps that the team has had both past and recent success, so the fan base always has something to be excited about. A great atmosphere, great food and a near perfect location make a trip to Heinz Field well worth the money.
The three extras are the overall good management of Heinz Field, the Renegade video, and the historical value you get in the Great Hall. The staff at Heinz Field is very accommodating to any special needs that a fan may have, and I've never seen a video get fans to their feet as fast as the Renegade video does; it's truly a sight to see. Be sure to take time to walk through the Great Hall, it's really a great collection of items for the history of the team.
It's now been over a decade since the first game at Heinz Field was played. New stadiums have opened since then that are bigger and cost more to build, but Heinz Field still ranks as an upper echelon stadium in the NFL. Improvements are made every year, including adding 3,000 seats for the 2013 season. Once you add on the gold seats, Heinz Field becomes one of the most iconic stadiums in the country.
Heinz Field is home of the 6-time NFL Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and is widely considered one of the top venues in the NFL. The stadium opened in 2001 with a seating capacity of 65,050. It is a horseshoe shaped stadium with the open end holding the scoreboard and offering a view toward Point State Park. Current plans call for an additional 4,000 seats to be added on the concourse of the open end much like the seats that were constructed for the Winter Classic.
The stadium itself is named after the H.J. Heinz Company, most famous for their ketchup products. Every time the Steelers enter the red zone, 2 giant ketchup bottles on either side of the scoreboard tilt and flow "ketchup" onto the scoreboard.
Heinz Field, current home of the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, opened with a great deal of fanfare in 2001. It is the fourth stadium that the Steelers have called home.
When the stadium was being constructed, there was talk of naming it after Art Rooney, the original owner who used his $2,500 winnings from the horse track and formed a pro football club back in 1933. The H.J. Heinz company eventually won the naming rights, and the name has proven to be a good fit.
Overall, the stadium provides just the right mix of modern amenities and essential features that make it an outstanding venue for a football game. If you don't believe me, look to the big boys - in recent years, both ESPN and Sports Illustrated have ranked Heinz Field as the second-best stadium in the NFL, behind only Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Heinz Field is easily my favorite NFL stadium. The Coca-Cola Great Hall is fantastic, the setting is beautiful (views of downtown and the incline, next to the rivers), and it's easily accessible for fans driving into town.
My only complaint would be that it's situation against the rivers can make getting into the stadium taxing (there are fewer gates that are easily accessible compared to other stadiums), thereby making for a lot of empty seats at kickoff.
Winter Classic Experience:
Normally, when you try to play a sport in a stadium that was built for another sport, you are left with less than desirable results. For instance, I have been to multiple bowl games played in Baseball stadiums and it always feels poorly done. The Winter Classic was an amazing exception. The entire spectacle was the best professional sporting event I have ever attended. I'm not going to do a full blown reveiw because the parking, access and food & beverage portions are exactly the same as a Steelers or Pitt Panthers game at Heinz Field. The atmosphere, access and fans are where the difference came in and are the areas I will touch on here.
First off, the day before the game, the NHL put on a "alumni" game which featured former stars from both the Penguins and the Capitals including Mario Lemeuix. The game was actually Lemeuix's idea. By all accounts, every aspect of the alumni game was botched and led to serious public backlash. First off, tickets were $50 but less than 10,000 were sold. Then they only opened one gate (gate B) to the stadium and only a few concession stands. Then the actual game ended after just 2 periods and with a tied score. The reason given for the small amount of tickets sold and limited access was because the Capitals wanted their practice closed to the public. Fine, but why not just schedule ample time between the 2 events? Lets just say it was not a good way for the NHL to kick off the weekend.
Luckily, the NHL knows how to put on an amazing outdoor event and the rest of the weekend more than made up for the alumni game mess. To start off, Pittsburgh always offers from public transportation on New Years eve for their First Night event. They extended this for the entire weekend with approximately 100 buses going directly to the stadium from various parts of the city. It was a very nice gesture and was heavily used.
Another great aspect of the atmosphere was the welcoming of tailgating, an odd occurance for a hockey game. Since the game was moved back from a 1pm puck drop to 8pm due to warm weather, it led to people spending all day enjoying the weather with football style tailgating. Near the stadium, there were tons of events such as a puck shooting area where you could actually take shots on Sidney Crosby's famous dryer that he shoots pucks at in his basement. There was also a public outdoor ice rink that used the actual boards and zambonis from the Civic Arena, the Penguins former home.
The stadium itself was spectacular looking. No expense was spared in covering the Steelers logos and making the stadium look as much like a purpose built outdoor hockey arena as possible. This is the area where one time events usually fail miserably but the NHL did an amazing job.
The fans themselves were great. Our seats were actually in the Capitals section, low and the furthest corner from the ice surface. I thought for sure we wouldn't be able to see much, but we could see all the action. There was a Caps fans who came in extremely wasted, with his middle finger raised in the air during the Canadian National Anthem. Security saw it and had him removed before the anthem was even over. The NHL also had a band play a set between each intermission keeping everyone entertained. The first Intermission had Styx who played Pittsburgh favorite Renegade along with a few other songs (sadly no Mr. Roboto however). The second Intermission featured The Clarks, a local band that has had moderate success across the country with their albums.
Of all the one use events I have attended, this is the only one I have ever enjoyed. The NHL has a reputation of putting on great outdoor events and the Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh certainly lived up to that reputation.
Steelers fans know how to get rowdy on big third down plays! Heinz field is a different NFL experience than you might expect, but it a good way.
PS dont expect urinals at Heinz Field...
three rivers brought the action more to life ...heinz field much nicer, but nothing beat big plays at 3rivers
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