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  • Patricia Beninato

Acrisure Stadium – Pittsburgh Panthers

Photos by Patricia Beninato, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Acrisure Stadium 100 Art Rooney Ave Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Year Opened: 2001

Capacity: 65,050


Hail to Pitt

In a football-crazy city like Pittsburgh, it stands to reason that its stadium would be top-notch. However, the University of Pittsburgh raised eyebrows in 1998 when it announced that instead of going to the expense to renovate the on-campus Pitt Stadium, the Panthers would align with the NFL’s Steelers and play their home games at the stadium under construction on the North Shore of the city, roughly four and a half miles from campus. Built in conjunction with PNC Park, home of the Pirates, and named for the Pittsburgh condiments giant, Heinz Field welcomed the Panthers in 2001.

The Panthers are one of the oldest Division 1 football teams in the country, with nine national championships and illustrious alumni such as Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Mike Ditka, Larry Fitzgerald, and Aaron Donald. Under current head coach Pat Narduzzi, the Panthers have some top players in Kenny Pickett and Jordan Addison and a devoted fanbase outside just students and alumni.

Note: Heinz Field’s name changed to Acrisure Stadium in July 2022.

Food & Beverage 4

Tailgating is a big thing at Heinz Field, and fans can bring in their food and drinks. But since it’s not a visit to Pittsburgh without a Primanti Brothers sandwich, if you can’t make it to a city location, you can get one here, as well as wings from the oddly-named Quaker Steak & Lube. French fry fans will want to try Chickie’s & Pete’s Old Bay seasoned spuds, a Pittsburgh sports venue staple.

Beer lovers will enjoy a large number of brews available, from Bud and Bud Light to local favorites like Iron City. For the minimalists, you’ll find plenty of hot dogs, burgers, pizza, nachos, and Pepsi products. Heinz Field isn’t a foodie destination, but fans will find lots to suit their tastes. A hot dog and a beer will run you roughly $17. Note that due to the pandemic, all concession stands at Heinz Field are currently cashless.

Atmosphere 4

No matter where you sit at Heinz Field, you’ll have a great view of the field. Seats are wide and comfortable, with handy drink holders. However, if you’re sun-sensitive and Pitt’s playing during the day, bring sun protection because there is next to no shade unless you’re sitting in the back of the lower bowl under the upper deck overhang. The scoreboard is giant, crystal-clear, and easily visible (unless you’re sitting below it).

As is typical for Big-Time College Football, Pitt’s got a large marching band and lots of cheerleaders, and mascot Roc the Panther is the most enthusiastic cheerleader of all. When Pitt scores a touchdown, the Gateway Clipper ships passing on the Allegheny River just south of the stadium will blow their horns, loudly enough to startle. During game breaks, things like current Pitt players up on the scoreboard lip-syncing and dancing to The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” happen, which is funnier than you might expect.

Neighborhood 4

Heinz Field is at the western end of the North Shore neighborhood, which means that it’s not immediate to restaurants and hotels and is essentially surrounded by parking lots. Nevertheless, an easy five-minute walk will get you to the (smallish) restaurant district and hotels like Springhill Suites, Hyatt Place, and Holiday Inn Express.

Burger fans won’t want to miss Burgatory, which offers every kind of burger you can imagine and a couple you haven’t, and North Shore Tavern is famous for its “steak on a stone,” where you can cook your steak on a super-heated stone. The area has a lively bar scene at night and is clean and well-lit. The neighborhood connects to downtown via the Roberto Clemente (Sixth Street) Bridge, where you can find more restaurants. The famous Strip District is about a twenty-minute walk away from the stadium over the bridge, with an eclectic array of restaurants and shops.

Fans 5

Pitt games are populated mainly by its students and alumni, but the crowd will vary depending on the Panthers’ opponent. The stands at Heinz Field are much fuller for games against rivals Virginia Tech, not so much for one-off teams like Western Michigan. You’ll find the students in the northern end zone, and the most popular side of the stadium for non-students is the western side behind Pitt’s sideline. Even when the crowd is small, though, they are loud and engaged all during the game, to the point that it can be surprising how loud a relatively small crowd can be.

Expect lots of HAIL TO PITT and LET’S GO PITT chants, and it’s a good idea to learn the words to “Seven Nation Army” and “Lose Yourself,” because you’ll hear them sung a LOT. Even when Pitt is losing, the crowd is into it–no fair-weather fans here. Also, singing along to “Sweet Caroline” at the end of the third quarter is a thing, and no, you didn’t suddenly get transported to Fenway Park as a result.

Access 5

No matter how you choose to get there, Heinz Field is exceptionally reachable. If you’re driving, the stadium has its exits from Interstates 376 and 279 and local routes 28 and 65. Parking passes for immediately adjacent lots can be bought when you purchase tickets, but they’re not cheap, starting at around $20 and going significantly up from there. If you don’t mind a little walk, you can find much cheaper parking via and around the neighborhood and across the river downtown.

Port Authority buses have several routes to the stadium, and the Allegheny light rail (T) station is a half-block away, with fares starting at $2.50 one way. The T is free if you stay downtown, so keep that in mind when making lodging reservations. Inside the stadium, wide concourses and ramps abound, with plenty of escalators and elevators as well. Restrooms are clean and in good condition, with wheelchair-accessible stalls.

Return on Investment 4

If you enjoy Division 1 college football or just football in general, going to a Pitt game at Heinz Field is a cheap good time. Even when a top school like Clemson is in town, you can get excellent seats in the lower bowl for less than $60. Unlike the Steelers, Pitt doesn’t have any ticket-related promotions for non-students, but it doesn’t matter with prices like these. Also, the team is pretty good, so that means a fun game.

If you want the whole tailgate/good college game experience, a Pitt game at Heinz Field is very reasonable compared to other big football schools. Add in the ease of getting there and general good ticket availability, and if you’re around when Pitt’s at home, it’s well worth your time to attend a game.

Extras 4

Heinz Field’s Great Hall, sponsored by FedEx, has a great display of Pitt memorabilia and is worth checking out. Those not familiar with Pitt football will marvel at the number of not only NFL players but Hall of Famers that came through Pitt, otherwise known as “I Didn’t Know (Name) Went Here!”

If you want to pick up a souvenir, there’s a well-stocked team store on site for all your Panther needs.

Heinz Field staff members are pleasant and helpful, and like its baseball brother PNC Park, fans get an excellent view of the Pittsburgh skyline from numerous vantage points throughout the stadium.

On early game days, go check out the Carnegie Science Center directly across the street from Heinz Field after the game since there’s always something going on there.

Final Thoughts

Yes, Heinz Field is primarily associated with the Steelers, but it’s the royal blue-and-gold home of the Panthers on Pitt game days. With easy access, reasonable prices, and fun fans, those who want to experience a big-time Division 1 college football game with all it entails would do well to check out Pitt games at Heinz Field. Add in all the other Pittsburgh amenities, and this should be a legitimate road trip idea.

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