Photos by Patricia Beninato and Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse 1304 Forbes Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Year Opened: 1988
A Storied History in an Updated Space
When it comes to Pittsburgh collegiate athletics, the University of Pittsburgh tends to overshadow the other schools in the area. Southwest of Pitt, though, Duquesne University (pronounced du-CANE) has been a longtime presence in the Atlantic 10, producing more high scorers in the division than any other school. It also made history in 1950 when one of its star players, Chuck Cooper, was the first Black player to be drafted by the NBA, going to the Boston Celtics. Duquesne’s recently renovated fieldhouse was named for the Pittsburgh native. While it’s not big, its prime location near downtown and updated amenities make it fun for college basketball fans, who can watch young stars like Amir “Primo” Spears and Kevin Easley Jr. under the direction of head coach Keith Dambrot.
Food & Beverage 3
You’ll don’t come to UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse to eat, but if you’re hungry, food and drink here are decent and reasonably priced. Along with the usual hot dogs, popcorn and nachos, you can get a Pig and Pickles sandwich, with pulled pork, onions, pickles (of course) and a local brewery’s mustard. For seven bucks, it’s a good deal. It’s also seven bucks for beer and hard seltzer. There’s a small bar on court level in front of the Dukes’ locker room that offers various cocktails for around ten dollars for mixed drinks.
UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse holds roughly 3500 people for basketball, with two levels of seating around the court with six club suites on the right facing the windows, framing a stunning view of downtown Pittsburgh. Most seats are typical fieldhouse seats, with a bleacher section reserved for students. The displays are top-notch with the recent renovation, with big LED screens above each basket and semi-circular screens showing scores and stats in each corner.
The PA announcer completely leans into his job, and a DJ provides some interesting mixes–at very loud levels.When he’s got the turntables going, a conversation is next to impossible, even with the person next to you. With its intimate seating and the ponytailed pom pom-waving cheerleaders on the sidelines, it’s very reminiscent of a high school gym, albeit with excellent high tech. There are currently no restrictions due to the COVID pandemic at the fieldhouse.
UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse is located on the Duquesne campus, but it’s happy to piggyback on its across-the-block neighbor, PPG Paints Arena when it comes to places for fans to hang out at before and after the game. That being said, there’s not that many, and add in major campus construction–at this writing, an osteopathic medical school is being built across the street from the fieldhouse–makes walking around a bit tricky.
However, people always manage to find the Souper Bowl on Fifth Avenue, about two blocks from the fieldhouse, which despite its name offers burgers, sandwiches, and other pub food and not soup. Don’t miss the cheese-and-bacon-loaded Souper Fries, and the honey mustard chicken sandwich is top-notch. Its hours are dependent on what’s going on at the arena, so be aware of that if you’re planning a visit.
I was warned beforehand that two things would affect the crowd at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse at the game I attended. First, it was the end of a holiday weekend, so there weren’t going to be a lot of students around. Second, and more importantly for a Pittsburgh school, the Steelers were playing at the same time, and in this town, Steelers über alles. So the crowd was sparse, but they were very enthusiastic. There was plenty of Duquesne scarlet and navy to be seen, drum rolls on seats during Duke free throws, lots of cheering and chants, and the occasional heckling of the refs. Nicely, though, since Duquesne’s a Catholic school after all. I imagine this place rocks when it’s full because it was rocking pretty hard at about 40% capacity.
UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse’s parking garage is located next to the fieldhouse with a cost of $10. If you find it, street parking is available through the Pittsburgh Parking Authority; you can pay at kiosks or on the Go Mobile PGH app. Bonus: it’s free if you get street parking for a Sunday game.
The fieldhouse is an easy 5-10 minute walk from downtown, and if you’re taking the T (light rail), Steel Plaza will be the closest stop, roughly eight minutes away on foot. The fieldhouse itself has wide concourses and multiple points of entry. At this time, only mobile tickets are available. Restrooms are clean and have all-new fixtures, although be warned that the aforementioned super-loud DJ is super loud here. I emerged from a halftime restroom break with ringing ears and a renewed hatred of Pitbull.
Return on Investment 3
If you sit on the first level behind the baskets, expect to pay $15 for seats. After that, the prices go up to $45 for club seats or seats in the Fan Corners above the scoreboards for in-conference games, five dollars less expensive for non-conference games. $30 for a cheap seat, sandwich, and beer for a lower-echelon Division I basketball game can be a deal for a big college basketball fan, but for families looking for something to do, the price tag at a Duquesne game can add up quickly.
There is a small kiosk on the main concourse by the concessions stand where you can buy some Duquesne apparel, but that’s about it for buying Dukes’ stuff inside UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. A much more extensive selection is available at the Barnes and Noble bookstore down the block from the fieldhouse, so head there for your Dukes souvenirs.
The staff, which seems to be a mix of students and employees, are friendly and pleasant, and the Pittsburgh skyline view is a nice touch.
The game experience at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse is pretty basic. You won’t get the frills of a big Division I school like Pitt, but if you like college basketball in a fun atmosphere, it’s worth your consideration. Duquesne has gone to some expense to create a good space for its students and alumni to cheer on the Dukes, and while I’d hesitate to call it a must-see destination for Pittsburgh visitors, it can be a nice addition to a Steel City sports tour.