- Patricia Beninato
Highmark Stadium - Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Photos by Patricia Beninato, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Highmark Stadium 510 W. Station Square Dr Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC website Highmark Stadium website
Year Opened: 2013 Capacity: 5,000
The Other Pittsburgh Football Team
Its stadium is on one of the fabled three rivers, its team colors are black and gold, and its fan base is loyal and intense. No, the team isn’t the Steelers, but Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. The Hounds are the Burgh’s newest team, joining the United Soccer League Championship League in 1999. It took the Hounds a while to establish themselves in Pittsburgh–in fact, it played in suburban high school stadiums for well over a decade before it got its own home in Highmark Stadium, which opened in 2013. Not only does the stadium win the “Best Pittsburgh Skyline View” award among the other Burgh sports venues, but it also fields a pretty good team, with captain Alex Dixon, Dane Kelly, and Kenardo Forbes leading the way under head coach Bob Lilley.
Food & Beverage 4
Highmark Stadium’s concessions offer the basics–hot dogs, burgers, nachos, chicken fingers, and Dippin’ Dots ice cream. This being Pittsburgh, though, you’re going to want to try the pierogies. More to the point, the disco pierogies, topped with cheese, onions, and sour cream, a takeoff on neighboring New Jersey’s disco fries. You’ll find the longest lines at the funnel cake stand, where staff fries them as fast as people can eat them. While pandemic protocols were still in place, the stadium created the Tailgate Zone, where any ticket holder can grab stuff from food trucks, enjoy an adult beverage and listen to live music. The trucks vary, but you can check the Riverhounds’ website to see what truck will be there when you’re attending. A hot dog and domestic beer will run you $14. There’s a roomy, well-appointed bar just inside the gates for those who want mixed drinks. If actual tailgating’s your thing, you’ll find a fun, family-friendly scene here.
Highmark Stadium holds 5,000 with additional standing room. Most of the seats are on the south and east sides because no one wants to block the absolutely breathtaking view of downtown Pittsburgh. Unlike Heinz Field and PNC Park, Highmark Stadium is located on the south shore of the Monongahela River, so Hounds fans get the best panorama of the city, with the Fort Pitt Bridge on the west side behind the club seating. No matter where you sit, you’ll have a good view of the game, the city, and the river. Don’t expect a lot of extracurriculars, though–people are here to watch soccer, not mascots or cheerleaders. Okay, they might watch the passing boats, particularly the Gateway Clipper, the famous tourist paddleboat that makes regular passes on the Mon during games, or admire the skyline repeatedly. The latter is very hard not to do while you’re here.
Highmark Stadium anchors the western end of Station Square, an entertainment complex built around the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad station. You’ll find the Pittsburgh outpost of the Hard Rock Cafe here and chains like Buca di Beppo and Joe’s Crab Shack. If you want to go super-fancy, check out Grand Concourse, located inside the beautifully restored depot. The recently opened Tupelo Honey has already established itself as the place to go for fried chicken in the Burgh. There’s a Sheraton hotel here too. If you’re here on the weekend, make sure to stay until Sunday and get a reservation for Grand Concourse’s legendary Sunday brunch buffet. If you decide to take a cruise on the Gateway Clipper, which docks here, enjoy the views but don’t eat on the boat, not when so many good restaurants are available.
For such a small venue, Highmark Stadium attracts fairly full houses on a regular basis. Like soccer stadiums worldwide, fans are happily–and continuously–noisy. If you want the whole Riverhounds fan experience, sit in the bleachers on the stadium’s east side. This is the home of the Steel Army, the flag-waving, name-calling, singing, chanting diehard Hounds fans, so of course, this is where the casual fan will have the most fun. Everyone seems to know how the other USL teams are doing, and while there might be some good-natured ribbing, fans of the opposing team will find the Steel Army pretty welcoming.
With its convenient location at Station Square, it’s easy to get to Highmark Stadium, with ample signage on Interstate 376/Parkway East and West. If you’re staying in downtown Pittsburgh, you can hop the light rail to the Station Square stop and take a short walk from there. If it’s a nice evening (all home games start at 7 P.M.), you can walk across the Smithfield Street Bridge, which ends at Station Square coming out of downtown. You can also walk across the Fort Pitt Bridge, which comes out on the western side of Station Square by the stadium, but be advised there’s always a lot of traffic on the bridge and it’s pretty noisy. Parking at the stadium is $15, but you’ll find cheaper parking within the Station Square complex. If you’re driving and want to get out quickly after the game, it’s strongly suggested to take the exit west of the stadium, as most of Station Square is east of the stadium with a finicky traffic light that causes semi-major backups. Also, because of the venue’s small size, it can be a little difficult to move around when it’s crowded. Highmark Stadium offers wheelchair-accessible seating. Restrooms are spacious and clean and also wheelchair-accessible.
Return on Investment 4
Not only are the Steel Army seats fun, but they’re also cheap at $15.50, and a midfield front row seat will run you maybe $25. Since the games are well-attended, the Riverhounds don’t have to run discounts, but you won’t hear people grumbling about getting gouged like they do at Pirates games. It’s very easy to make a night out of a Riverhounds game without spending too much, so families and those looking for inexpensive entertainment options both love going to Highmark Stadium.
There is a Riverhounds team store under the club seating, but it’s small and can get claustrophobically crowded, particularly at halftime. Prices, however, are pretty good, and there are enough little things like magnets and horns to make picking up a few souvenirs for the kids worthwhile. In addition, players are always available after games to pose for pictures and sign autographs so that the souvenirs can be even cheaper.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC might be the low team on the Steel City sports totem pole, but Highmark Stadium is a genuine gem. With inexpensive tickets, a prime location, and a winning team, a Riverhounds game is becoming an undercover must-do for Pittsburgh residents and visitors alike. The team is allegedly applying for entry into Major League Soccer, but soccer fans won’t be disappointed by either the action on the field or the venue where it’s housed.