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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

Sports Journey: The Sports Venues of the Steel City



Pittsburgh is one of the smallest U.S. cities in professional sports. However, it has earned the right to call itself the city of Champions. Pittsburgh has won league championships in nearly every sport where the city has a franchise. The city is rather compact, which makes it easy to navigate and get around to multiple sites related to its sports heritage.


One of the best places to begin this sports journey is through a visit to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center. The sports museum features two floors of memorabilia and exhibits related to the many teams and individuals linked to the Steel City. The exhibits include the Super Steelers, A Great Day for Hockey, the Immaculate Reception Turns 50, and Friday Night Lights.


Baseball has played a major role in the Pittsburgh area since the 1880s. The museum tracks the Pirates team through its history at Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium, and its present home at PNC Park. The Pirates section of the center also includes exhibits about Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Honus Wagner.


Pittsburgh also has a great football heritage in the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers. Western Pennsylvania has also been seen as the "Cradle of High School Football", as the region has produced top signal callers including Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino.


We begin our sports journey on the North Shore side of the Allegheny River. This area has been home to both the Pirates and the Steelers. They shared the Three Rivers Stadium from 1970-2001. The Steelers also called Three Rivers Stadium home.  It served as the team’s home field during many of their Super Bowl Years. It was in this stadium that both teams won multiple championships.


Though the stadium was demolished, both teams have displays about the multi-sport stadium in their new homes. Three Rivers Stadium is also where Tony Dorsett set several NCAA records during his time as a running back for the Pitt Panthers.


The North Shore is now home to a pair of major league venues. Acrisure Stadium (formerly known as Heinz Field) opened in 2001. It serves as the home of both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pitt Panthers. During your visit to the home of the Steelers you can visit the FedEx Great Hall on the east side of the stadium and its Hall of Honor. Displays in this area cover the history of the Steelers from their inception in 1933 to the present. It has exhibits covering the top players in the franchise’s existence, the top achievements of the team over the years, and the retired numbers worn by their star players. It has a huge amount of Steelers memorabilia on display in the 10,000-square-foot facility.


The second North Shore sports facility is PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2001. It is always mentioned as one of the top baseball stadiums in the MLB. This is due to the proximity of the seats to the field, a terrific food and beverage program, and the dramatic views of Downtown Pittsburgh over its right field wall. Make sure to visit the statues of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, and Honus Wagner that ring the exterior of the ballpark.


As we cross over the Allegheny River into Downtown Pittsburgh we come to the Clemente Museum. Roberto Clemente was a sports icon. He was a Hall of Fame outfielder, a terrific hitter, and a great humanitarian. He lost his life in a plane crash while delivering much-needed supplies to his native Nicaragua when it was struck by an earthquake. The museum is privately run, and tours are only given by appointment.


Our next stop is also located in downtown Pittsburgh, as we visit the PPG Paints Arena, home of the NHL Penguins. Once inside you can check out the displays saluting Penguin greats, including Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, and Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins have won five Stanley Cups over the years, so make sure you check the championship banners hanging from the rafters.


The original home of NHL hockey in Pittsburgh was the Civic Arena/Mellon Arena. It was located across the street from the PPG Paints Arena and served as the home of the Penguins from 1967-2010. The first three Penguin Stanley Cup Championships came while they played at the Civic Arena (aka the Igloo). It was torn down in 2012.


Basketball seems to be the only sport without a deep history in the Pittsburgh area. The Civic Arena/Mellon Arena also served as the only home for Pittsburgh’s lone foray into professional basketball. The Pittsburgh Pipers of the American Basketball Association (ABA) won the inaugural ABA Championship in 1968. They then moved to Minnesota due to low attendance. The team returned to Pittsburgh as the Condors in 1973. The team folded after one season.


Forbes Field served as the home of the Pirates from 1909-1971. It also served as the early home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Negro League baseball. The Pirates played here for more than 61 seasons. It is probably best known as the stadium where Bill Mazeroski hit a dramatic home run in the World Series 7th game to bring a World Series pennant to the Steel City.


Forbes Field was torn down in 1970 to make way for an expansion of the University of Pittsburgh. Today all that is left of Forbes Field is a short stretch of the outfield wall that Mazeroski’s bash flew over to win the 1960 World Series. There is also a historical marker posted next to the wall. It is located along Roberto Clemente Drive.


The last major sports facility in the Downtown Pittsburgh area is the Petersen Events Center at the University of Pittsburgh. It serves as the home of both men’s and women’s basketball programs. It has seating for 12,500 Pitt Panther fans. Petersen Events Center is in the Oakland neighborhood in Downtown Pittsburgh.


The end of our Steel City sports journey is located on the South Shore of the Monongahela River, across from Downtown Pittsburgh. Highmark Stadium is in the Station Square Complex, and it serves as the home of the USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds. The soccer stadium opened in 2013 and has served as the home of the Riverhounds ever since. The stadium has a capacity of 5,000 fans. Station Square is also the home of the Josh Gibson Heritage Park. The park honors not only Josh Gibson, but also honors Negro League stars Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Cum Posey, and both the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, two legendary Negro League teams based in the Steel City.


A great way to end your tour of the many sports venues of Pittsburgh is to stop at Yinzers in the Burgh in the Strip District. It carries the largest line of Pittsburgh sports memorabilia in the world.


After touring the Steel City’s many sports facilities and heritage sites, we know that you’ll agree that Pittsburgh is a championship city with a great sports history.

 

Links to various sites:

 

Civic Arena/Mellon Arena

Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum

Three Rivers Stadium

Acrisure Stadium

PNC Park

Clemente Museum

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