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Heinz Field (map it)
100 Art Rooney Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Year Opened: 2001
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the most successful team since the NFL/AFL merger, with six Super Bowl titles. For four of those championships, they shared Three Rivers Stadium with the Pittsburgh Pirates. When baseball went retro in the mid-1990s, the Pirates followed suit by planning PNC Park, and the Steelers had an option to renovate Three Rivers into a football-only facility. But with their three division rivals all boasting new venues, the Steelers ownership wanted to get in on the act. The city eventually agreed to build two separate venues along with a convention center. Though controversial for its use of public funds, the project has revitalized the North Shore, with the two stadiums standing a few blocks away and making Pittsburgh one of the premier sports destinations in the country.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The generic concessions are given names such as Goal Line Stand and Red Zone Express but the menu is typical for a sports venue, with pizza, dogs, brats, and sandwiches, and prices a bit higher than usual. For instance, a Chicken Chipotle Sausage is $8 as is a Jalapeno Cheddar Brat. A foot-long hot dog with peppers and onions is $6.75.
Of course, Pittsburgh stalwart Primanti Bros has two stands on the lower concourse, but their selection is limited and you are probably better off visiting one of their city locations for a more complete menu. Those with a hankering for Greek can try Papa Duke's Gyros, while Quaker Steak and Lube offers chicken wings.
Rather than limit yourself to these concessions, you should head to the south plaza behind the scoreboard, where you can find the Steel Pit BBQ with burgers cooking over an open flame. It looks very tempting and you will likely see a large lineup drooling in anticipation.
A couple of specialty stands are nearby: Nakama Food Truck offers sushi rolls, egg rolls, and a salad, although it is rather overpriced. You can also get an old fashioned soda in flavors such as Birch Beer and Sarsaparilla.
I had acquired a club seat and decided to eat there, but again there wasn't as much as I had hoped. The Stuffed Meatball is the best choice for lighter appetites at just $6.75 but I did not find this on the lower concourse.
There is a designated driver program which gets you a free soda, while beer is best obtained at Pub 33 in the Great Hall, with a couple of dozen microbrews to choose from at $8.50 each.
Every game at Heinz Field has been sold out since it opened, and the game day experience is one of the best I have seen. Begin with the Great Hall, which is perhaps the best concourse in pro sports, although it does get crowded right from when the gates open. Spanning approximately 40,000 square feet on the east side of the stadium, it houses a collection of Steelers memorabilia. The Hall includes a timeline of the Steelers franchise's major events, while the Walk of Fame features the lockers of several former players, including Franco Harris and Jack Lambert. The six Super Bowl trophies are here, each inside a separate gigantic Lombardi Trophy display case along with memorabilia from each championship season. A live band plays, and there are murals dedicated to local high schools and the Pittsburgh Panthers. It can take 30 minutes easily to wind your way through here checking out all that is on display, so get there as early as possible and enter by Gate B if you can, which is the chronological start of the Super Bowl displays.
The smoke rising from the Steel Pit BBQ is another unique touch, as are the East and West ramps that offer beautiful views of downtown and double as viewing platforms for many fans.
There are no cheerleaders at Heinz Field, but there is no need for them. Most fans bring in their Terrible Towel and those are waving throughout the evening, creating a cool sight. The music works in getting fans pumped up but it isn't excessively loud. During the game, each play is replayed and announced with a minimum of hype, until the Steelers net a key first down.
The unique yellow seats always serve as a reminder of where you are and really add to the proceedings. Simply put, the atmosphere at game at Heinz Field is exactly what I would want from an NFL venue.
The North Shore may not have much, but there are several bars that have opened up and are happening spots before and after the game. Jerome Bettis' Grille is the restaurant of choice, but it fills up quickly. Note the Super Bowl banners out front though. Nearby is a branch of the Tilted Kilt and its scantily clad waitresses, while the Rivertowne Brew Pub gives you a more local feel.
Just a few blocks away and across the bridges lies downtown with a few more bars and eateries as well as the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, which is a must-see for any sports fan. At $15, it isn't cheap but this includes admission into the Heinz History Center.
West of the stadium is the Carnegie Science Center, which might provide a distraction for any non-sports fans traveling with you, while you attend the game. The Rivers Casino is another block away should you fancy trying your luck on the slots or black jack table.
Finally, you cannot forget PNC Park and the bars in that area, which is just a short walk away. Pittsburgh has used both Heinz Field and PNC Park to completely renovate the area and it is now a great place to visit, even when neither team is in town.
Passionate, loud, wearing their team's colors, and showing up early seem to be the hallmark of the fans at Heinz Field. Almost everyone has a Terrible Towel and waves it throughout the game. I particularly enjoy the way that fans line up along both the East and West ramps for the entire game.
Pittsburgh has a reputation as a hardscrabble town, but I found fans to be polite and enjoying their game without getting out of control. There is some good-natured joshing with visiting supporters, but nobody is horribly obnoxious or violent. With the Steelers suffering from a terrible start in 2013, it remains to be seen if the fans continue their unwavering support, but in the September night game I attended, they were great.
In 2012 the local light rail known as the "T" opened two stations on the North Shore, with the last station, Allegheny, serving Heinz Field. I would highly recommend finding free parking on the street and taking the train from downtown, which is part of the free ride zone. After the game, if you are parked downtown, you can easily walk back in 10-15 minutes. There is no need to take the T back unless you are going all the way to the South Hills. If you have decided to park at one of the stations at the Park n Ride, the ride in is fine, but be prepared for long lineups to the trains after the game. The lines are efficiently organized though and move consistently if slowly. When I got on my train, it was empty, leaving after about a 5-minute wait. Pay on exit or on the train once you leave the free zone area.
Within the stadium, the Great Hall does get crowded, but you can move around easily enough if you are not in a rush. The ramps and escalators keep fans moving to and from the upper deck without any issue.
The male washrooms are troughs, which are something I have not seen in a new stadium, but I had no problems with lines here. Overall, there is no problem getting to and from Heinz Field, and once inside, you should have no problem getting around.
The Steelers sell out every game, but you can occasionally find tickets on TicketMaster and other resale sites. Lower end zone seats are $92 plus tax and fees, while upper deck seats are $90 plus. There is no cheap option to get into the stadium, but this is one of the best game-day experiences in all of sports and you will have to pay to enjoy it. These prices are not outrageous either, falling within the range of an average NFL game ticket.
The club level tickets are over $200, but you are much better getting these on the street for half that, should a corporate fan be unable to show up. The good thing about the club is that it is not a separate seating level so the upper deck is not that far from the action.
Heinz Field is among the top venues in the NFL with a rabid fan base, and it is a must visit. You will not be disappointed as long as you avoid the secondary ticket market, which has the Steelers as the 7th most expensive NFL team. However, with the Steelers struggling in 2013, this could change quickly as money flows to the playoff Pirates.
Take a minute to find the spot the Immaculate Reception monument along with the Three Rivers Stadium field markings. It is along General Robinson Street just east of the stadium. It was unveiled in late 2012, so if you haven't been to Heinz since then, it is worth checking out.
The view of the skyline and Point State Park from the west ramp is superb and deserves a visit regardless of your seat location. Take the escalator up and walk down before the game, as it will be crowded by the time the game starts.
The Tailgate Zone at Stage AE is a great spot before the game, especially those Sunday or Monday night games where you can watch multiple afternoon affairs and have a bit of BBQ and beer. It is also open after the game should the nearby bars be completely filled up. With a large indoor seating area with several TV screens, this is the place to warm up when cold weather hits the Steel City.
The gigantic ketchup bottles on the scoreboard are a great way to advertise for the stadium's naming rights holder.
Finally, a point for the Great Hall, which is probably better viewed during a tour as it can be tough to get good pictures with so many fans milling about.
The addition of the T station has made Heinz Field the best venue that I have seen in the NFL. I really can't find any faults other than a minor quibble regarding the food choices and price. From well before game time when you can visit the Tailgate Zone or one of the great bars in the neighborhood, you will be presented with the best the NFL has to offer.
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...
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.
three rivers brought the action more to life ...heinz field much nicer, but nothing beat big plays at 3rivers
Heinz Field is a barebones dump. It has that goofy open end zone, and another end where the seats are so high they might as well be in another stadium. Any atmosphere that is generated is in spite of, not because of, Heinz Field. It's really a shame that a team as decorated as the Steelers calls it home. Compared to, say, Invesco Field, it looks like a toy. It's cheap at almost every turn. The area around it is not great. If you're not attached to a tailgate, you either have a considerable walk to downtown, which isn't very exciting, or you can try and squeeze into one of the relatively few bars that are proximate to (the wonderful) PNC Park. The scoreboard stinks, the PA is ridiculously loud, and the seats are hideous. If a lesser team played here, it would be the laughing stock that it should be.
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