Last year marked exactly 20 years since the demolition of the previous home of two major professional sports leagues franchises from Pittsburgh, the Pirates of the MLB and Steelers from the NFL. It is a good occasion to remind ourselves of the history of this remarkable facility.
Three Rivers Stadium, the old home of the Pirates and Steelers, was located along the Allegheny River's banks for thirty years. As the Pirates had previously played at Exposition Park from 1890 to 1909, it was the second stadium to be situated across the river from downtown Pittsburgh. This is the place where one can find many exciting locations, such as the Southern Tier Brewery Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino, North Shore Riverfront Park, and the historical plaque of Three Rivers Stadium.
Before the construction of Three Rivers Stadium
The Pirates moved into Forbes Field in the Oakland area in June 1909. When this steel and concrete ballpark was constructed, it was state-of-the-art, but by the 1950s, it was beginning to age. It had small seats, little parking, and was generally in poor condition. A plan to build a new municipal stadium for the Pirates and Steelers dates back to 1948.
© joseph a (cc: by-nc-sa)
An earlier design called for a multifunctional stadium to be built above the Monongahela River with the outfield open to Pittsburgh's cityscape, but this idea was abandoned owing to cost estimates. In 1958 Pittsburgh's Northside neighborhood was chosen to be the place for the new venue. It is the place where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers converge to form the Ohio River. Construction was often postponed because of financial and construction challenges even though it was initially intended to open in the 1960s. On April 25, 1968, work on Three Rivers Stadium got underway.
Three Rivers Stadium: from 1970 to 1990
The Pirates played their inaugural game at Three Rivers Stadium on July 17, 1970, losing to the Cincinnati Reds in front of the largest baseball audience to ever attend a game in Pittsburgh. The $55 million arena was able to hold nearly 48,000 baseball fans and 59,000 football fans. The stadium was surrounded by five levels of yellow and red seats. Two banks of 4,000 ground-level baseball seats along the first and third base lines were relocated to make room for 8,000 football seating along the 50-yard line.
© Jacob Caddy (cc: by-nc)
The primary scoreboard was initially situated in centerfield, over the outfield fence. In 1983, a brand-new $5 million one took its place. Over 4,000 additional seats took place where the first scoreboard stood, and the new one was placed in centerfield below the lip of the stadium. The original Tartan playing field was replaced with AstroTurf in 1983 as well. The lower deck's new blue seats were set up in advance of the 1994 All-Star Game.
The Allegheny Club, a restaurant with 300 seats with a field view and 400 seats in the main eating room, was one of the stadium's most opulent amenities. Outside the venue, there were statues of Roberto Clemente and Honus Wagner. Huge championship tarps sheltered seats in the upper deck of the outfield in the 1990s.
Three Rivers Stadium’s last decade
By the middle of the 1990s, the Steelers and the Pirates had started looking for separate stadiums to earn more money. Both were successful, and new venues, PNC Park for the Pirates and Heinz Field for the Steelers, were constructed on each side of Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates played their final game at Three Rivers Stadium on October 1, 2000. On February 11, 2001, the stadium was demolished.