Three Rivers Stadium
|The Blast Furnace
The House that Clemente Built
|Location||600 Stadium Circle
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15212
|Owner||City of Pittsburgh|
|Operator||Pittsburgh Stadium Authority|
|Field size||Left Field — 335 ft / 102 m
Left-Center — 375 ft / 114 m
Center Field — 400 ft / 122 m
Right-Center — 375 ft / 114 m
Right Field — 335 ft / 102 m
Wall height — 10 ft / 3 m
|Surface||Tartan Turf (1970–1982)
|Broke ground||April 25, 1968|
|Opened||July 16, 1970|
|Closed||December 16, 2000|
|Demolished||February 11, 2001|
|Construction cost||$55 million
($354 million in 2015 dollars)
|Architect||Deeter Ritchy Sipple
Michael Baker, Jr.
|Structural engineer||Osborn Engineering|
|Services engineer||Elwood S. Tower Consulting Engineers|
|General contractor||Huber, Hunt & Nichols/Mascaro|
|Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) (1970–2000)
Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) (1970–2000)
Pittsburgh Maulers (USFL) (1984)
Pittsburgh Panthers (NCAA) (2000)
|Designated:||November 26, 2007|
Three Rivers Stadium was a multi-purpose stadium located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1970 to 2000. It was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL).
Built as a replacement to Forbes Field, which opened in 1909, the $55 million ($353.7 million today) multi-purpose facility was designed to maximize efficiency. Ground was broken in April 1968 and an oft behind-schedule construction plan lasted for 29 months. The stadium opened on July 16, 1970 when the Pirates played their first game. In the 1971 World Series, Three Rivers Stadium hosted the first World Series game played at night. The following year the stadium was the site of the Immaculate Reception. The final game in the stadium was won by the Steelers on December 16, 2000. Three Rivers Stadium also hosted the Pittsburgh Maulers of the United States Football League and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football team for a single season each.
After its closing, Three Rivers Stadium was imploded in 2001, and the Pirates and Steelers each moved into newly built stadiums.
Planning and construction
A proposal for a new sports stadium in Pittsburgh was first made in 1948; however, plans did not attract much attention until the late 1950s. The Pittsburgh Pirates played their home games at Forbes Field, which opened in 1909, and was the second oldest venue in the National League (Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium was oldest, having opened only two months earlier than Forbes). The Pittsburgh Steelers, who had moved from Forbes Field to Pitt Stadium in 1964, were large supporters of the project. For their part, according to longtime Pirates announcer Bob Prince, the Pirates wanted a bigger place to play in order to draw more revenue.
In 1958, the Pirates sold Forbes to the University of Pittsburgh for $2 million ($16.3 million today). The university wanted the land for expanded graduate facilities. As part of the deal, the university leased Forbes back to the Pirates until a replacement could be built. An early design of the stadium included plans to situate the stadium atop a bridge across the Monongahela River. It was to call for a 70,000 seat stadium with hotels, marina and even 100 lane bowling alley. Plans of the "Stadium over the Monongahela" were eventually not pursued. A design was presented in 1958 which featured an open center field design—through which fans could view Pittsburgh's "Golden Triangle". A site on the city's Northside was approved on August 10, 1958, due to land availability and parking space, the latter of which had been a problem at Forbes Field. The same site had hosted Exposition Park, which the Pirates had left in 1909. The stadium was located in a hard-to-access portion of downtown, making it hard in later years to get in before games and leave after games. Political debate continued over the North Side Sports Stadium and the project was often behind schedule and over-budget. Arguments were made by commissioner (and former Allegheny County Medical Examiner) Dr. William McCelland that the Pirates and Steelers should fund a higher percentage of the $33 million project ($239.9 million today). Due to lack of support, however, the arguments faded.
Ground for Three Rivers Stadium was broken on April 25, 1968. Due to the Steelers' suggestions, the stadium's design was changed to enclose center field. Construction continued, though it became plagued with problems such as thieves stealing materials from the building site. In November 1969, Arthur Gratz asked the city for an additional $3 million ($19.3 million today), which was granted. In January 1970, the opening target date of the stadium was set for May 29; however, because of a failure to install the lights on schedule, opening day was pushed back to July 16. The stadium was named in February 1969 for to its location at the confluence of the Allegheny River and Monongahela River, which forms the Ohio River. It would sometimes be called The House That Clemente Built after Pirates' right-fielder Roberto Clemente.
In their first game after the All-Star Break in 1970, the Pirates opened the stadium against Cincinnati on Thursday, July 16. The team donned new uniform designs for the first time that day, a similar plan was for new "mini-skirts" for female ushers however the ushers union declined the uniform change for female workers. A parade was held before opening ceremonies. The expansive parking lot, both Pirates and Steelers team offices, the Allegheny Club (VIP Club) and the press boxes and facilities were not opened until weeks later due to extended labor union work stoppages. Instead of allowing cars to park, the team instructed fans to park downtown and walk to the stadium over bridges or take shuttle buses. The opening of Three Rivers marked the first time the Pirates allowed beer to be sold in the stands during a game since the early 1960s.
Design and alterations
Three Rivers Stadium was similar in design to other stadiums built in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Riverfront Stadium, the Houston Astrodome, and Busch Memorial Stadium, which were designed as multi-purpose facilities to maximize efficiency. Due to their similar design these stadiums were nicknamed "cookie-cutter" or "concrete doughnuts" ballparks. The sight lines were more favorable to football; almost 70 percent of the seats in the baseball configuration were in foul territory. It originally seated 50,611 for baseball, but several expansions over the years brought it to 58,729. In 1993, the Pirates placed tarps on most of the upper deck to create a better baseball atmosphere, reducing capacity to 47,687.
Three Rivers was the first multi-purpose stadium and the first in either the NFL or MLB to feature Tartan Turf, which was installed from opening day. It was replaced by a number of other surfaces including AstroTurf. It had a dirt skin infield on the basepaths for baseball through 1972, until converted to "sliding pits" at the bases for 1973. Renovations for the start of the 1983 baseball season included the initial placement of AstroTurf, the center field Stewart-Warner scoreboard being removed and replaced with new seating—while a new Diamond Vision scoreboard with a White Way messageboard was installed at the top of the center field upper deck—and the outfield fence being painted blue. The field originally used "Gamesaver vacuum vehicles" to dry the surface, though they were replaced by an underground drainage system.
In 1975, the baseball field's outfield fences were moved ten feet (3 m) closer to home plate, in an attempt to boost home run numbers. The bullpens were moved to multiple locations throughout the stadium's history; however, their first position was also their final one—beyond the right-field fence. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story in 1970 stated that the new stadium boasted 1,632 floodlight bulbs.
Due to Three Rivers Stadium's multi-purpose design, bands including Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and The Who hosted concerts at the venue. On August 11, 1985, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hosted the largest concert in Pittsburgh history, when they performed for 65,935 on-lookers. And in 1992, the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated their second Stanley Cup victory at the Stadium. The stadium hosted various Jehovah's Witnesses conventions, including international conventions in 1973 and 1978, and a centennial conference in 1984. A Billy Graham Crusade took place at Three Rivers in June, 1993. The venue also served as the premiere of the 1994 Disney film Angels in the Outfield which, despite being based around the then-Disney owned California Angels, paid homage to the original 1951 film, which featured the Pirates in "heavenly" need.
Three Rivers Stadium had a beverage contract with Coca-Cola throughout its history. It was during the Steelers' stay in Three Rivers that the now famous "Mean Joe" Greene Coke commercial aired, leading to a longstanding relationship between the two. When Heinz Field opened, Coca-Cola also assumed the beverage contract for that stadium (the Pirates signed a deal with Pepsi for PNC Park), and also became the primary sponsor for the Steelers' own hall of fame, the Coca-Cola Great Hall. After the initial 10-year contract expired, Heinz Field contracted with Pepsi for exclusive pouring rights, breaking a 50-year tradition with the Steelers.
In September 1991, planning began to build a new baseball park for the Pittsburgh Pirates. As talks continued, a proposal to re-model Three Rivers Stadium into a full-time football stadium was made. However, Steelers ownership did not support the idea, stating that a new venue would be needed for the franchise to remain competitive. On July 9, 1998, the Allegheny Regional Asset District board approved an $809 million plan which would fund the Pirates' PNC Park and the Steelers' Heinz Field. Ground was broken for the new stadiums in 1999. On October 1, 2000, the Pirates were defeated 10–9 by the Chicago Cubs in their final game at Three Rivers Stadium. After the game, former Pirate Willie Stargell threw out the ceremonial last pitch. Two months later on December 16, 2000, the Steelers concluded play at Three Rivers Stadium, with a 24-3 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Three Rivers Stadium was imploded on February 11, 2001 at 8:03 a.m. on a chilly 21 °F (−6 °C) day. Over 20,000 people viewed the implosion from Point State Park. Another 3,000-4,000 viewing from atop Mount Washington and an uncounted number of people viewed the demolition from various high points across the city. Mark Loizeaux of Controlled Demolition, Inc. pushed the button that set off the 19-second implosion, while Elizabeth and Joseph King pushed the "ceremonial old fashioned dynamite plunger". The demolition cost $5.1 million and used 4,800 pounds of explosive. With the newly constructed Heinz Field only 80 feet away, effects from the blast were a concern. Doug Loizeaux, vice president of Controlled Demolition, Inc., was happy to report that there was no debris within 40 feet of Heinz Field.
At the time of the demolition, Three Rivers stadium still had $27.93 million in debt ($37.2 million today), some of it from the original construction but the rest from renovations in the mid-1980s, bringing more criticism to the public funding of sports stadiums. The debt was finally retired by 2010.
Like most stadiums demolished during this time whose replacements were located nearby (including the Civic Arena over a decade later), the site of Three Rivers Stadium mostly became a parking lot. Much like the Pittsburgh Penguins would do with the site of Civic Arena, the Steelers retained development rights to the site of Three Rivers, and would later build Stage AE on portions of the site, as well as an office building that hosts the studios for Root Sports Pittsburgh, the headquarters of StarKist Tuna, and the regional headquarters of Del Monte Foods. On December 23, 2012, on the 40th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, the Steelers unveiled a monument at the exact spot where Franco Harris made the reception in the parking lot.
In 2011, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that the Three Rivers Stadium official website was still active, 11 years after the facility's demolition. In 2015, the newspaper revisited the issue and reported again that the website remained active, 15 years after demolotion.
- 50,500 (1970)
- 50,235 (1971–1978)
- 50,364 (1979)
- 50,230 (1980)
- 54,598 (1981–1982)
- 54,490 (1983)
- 58,365 (1984)
- 58,429 (1985)
- 58,437 (1986–1987)
- 58,727 (1988–1989)
- 58,729 (1990–1992)
- 47,952 (1993–2000)
- 50,350 (1970–1979)
- 54,000 (1980–1982)
- 59,000 (1983–1990)
- 59,600 (1991–2000)
Three Rivers Stadium opened on July 16, 1970, but the Pirates lost 3–2 to the Cincinnati Reds in front of 48,846 spectators. The first pitch was thrown by Dock Ellis—a strike—to Ty Cline. The first hit in the stadium was by Pittsburgh's Richie Hebner, in the bottom of the first inning. The Pirates lifted their local blackout policy so that local fans could see the inaugural game. The Pirates' lowest season of attendance was 1985, at an average of 9,085. The average attendance would peak in 1991, when the Pirates averaged 25,498 per game. Game one of the 1970 National League Championship Series, at Three Rivers Stadium, was the first postseason baseball game to be played on an artificial surface. The following season, the Pirates advanced to the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Three Rivers Stadium hosted game four, in which the Pirates defeated the Orioles in the first night game in the history of the World Series. Pittsburgh hosted its third All-Star Game in 1974. The National League won the game by a score of 7–2 and the Pirates' Ken Brett was the winning pitcher. In 1979, the Pirates again won a World Championship, yet again defeating the Baltimore Orioles in a seven-game World Series. Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Series were played at Three Rivers. Fifteen years later, the midsummer classic returned in 1994. With 59,568 in attendance, the largest crowd to ever attend a baseball game at the stadium, the National League won 8-7 in the 10th inning. On July 6, 1980, the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 in 20 innings—the most innings ever played at the stadium. The longest game at the stadium was played on August 6, 1989, when Jeff King hit a walk-off home run 5 hours and 42 minutes into the 18-inning contest, as the Pirates once again beat the Cubs 5-4. On September 30, 1972, Pirates' right-fielder Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th hit at Three Rivers Stadium, three months before his death.
Bobby Bonilla hit one of the only thirteen home runs ever hit into the upper deck of Three Rivers Stadium, and one of the six to the right-field side. Willie Stargell is the all-time leader in upper deck shots at the stadium, hitting four of the remaining five right-field blasts; Mark Whiten hit the other. The left-field upper deck had been reached by Jeff Bagwell twice, and Bob Robertson, Greg Luzinski, Howard Johnson, Glenallen Hill and Devon White (his home run struck the facade) once each.
The Pittsburgh Steelers played their first game in Three Rivers Stadium on September 20, 1970—a 19–7 loss to the Houston Oilers. Throughout their 31 seasons in Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers posted a record of 182–72, including a 13-5 playoff record. The Steelers sold out every home game from 1972 through the closing of the stadium, a streak which continues through 2008. The largest attendance for a football game was on January 15, 1995, when 61,545 spectators witnessed the Steelers lose to the San Diego Chargers. On December 23, 1972, Three Rivers Stadium was site to the Immaculate Reception, which became regarded as one of the greatest plays in NFL history. Three Rivers Stadium hosted seven AFC Championship Games from 1972 to 1998; the Steelers won four. In the 1995 AFC Championship game, the Steelers' Randy Fuller deflected a Hail Mary pass intended for Indianapolis Colts receiver Aaron Bailey as time expired, to send the franchise to their 5th Super Bowl. A Steelers symbol recognized worldwide, The Terrible Towel debuted on December 27, 1975 at Three Rivers Stadium. The Steelers would move to Heinz Field after it was closed.
- August 24, 1970: Al Hirt and the Three Rivers New Orleans Music Festival
- November 13, 1971: Three Dog Night
- March 27, 1972: Black Sabbath
- July 11, 1972: Alice Cooper (with Humble Pie and Two Steves. Uriah Heep and John Kay were originally scheduled to be part of the show. Concert was originally scheduled to take place on June 23, 1972 but was rescheduled due to flooding.)
- July 30, 1972: Three Dog Night (2nd tour)
- July 13, 1973: Pittsburgh Jazz Festival (featuring Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Charles Mingus)
- July 14, 1973: Pittsburgh Jazz Festival (featuring Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Walt Harper, Roland Kirk, David Newman, and Herbie Mann)
- July 24, 1973: Led Zeppelin (Footage from this show was used in the 1976 film The Song Remains the Same). Little Feat was the opening act.
- August 24, 1973: The Allman Brothers Band
- June 20, 1974: Pink Floyd
- July 5, 1974: Eric Clapton (with The Band and Todd Rundgren)
- July 15, 1974: Jackson 5
- August 31, 1974: Doobie Brothers (with Chicago and The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Lynyrd Skynyrd was originally scheduled to perform but cancelled.)
- June 20, 1975: Pink Floyd (2nd tour)
- July 19, 1975: World Series of Rock (featuring Bachman Turner Overdrive, Johnny Winter, Dave Mason, Foghat, Styx, and Kansas)
- June 12, 1976: ZZ Top and Aerosmith
- July 24, 1976: The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Boz Scaggs
- August 14, 1976: The Beach Boys, Peter Frampton, and Gary Wright
- August 26, 1978: The Beach Boys, The Steve Miller Band, Jan and Dean, and Sweet Breeze
- July 30, 1983: Simon and Garfunkel
- May 27, 1985: "Explosion of Sound" with The Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws
- August 11, 1985: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
- May 24, 1987: Genesis
- October 13, 1987: U2
- May 30, 1988: Pink Floyd
- June 15, 1988: Monsters of Rock Tour featuring Metallica, Dokken, Scorpions, Van Halen, and Kingdom Come.
- July 16, 1989: The Who
- September 6, 1989: The Rolling Stones
- July 8, 1990: Grateful Dead
- May 26, 1992: Genesis
- July 26, 1992: Metallica and Guns N' Roses on the Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour with Faith No More as their opening act.
- August 25, 1992: U2
- May 31, 1994: Pink Floyd
- August 2, 1994: Elton John and Billy Joel
- September 29, 1994: The Rolling Stones
- June 30, 1995: Grateful Dead played their last Pittsburgh show.
- August 15, 1995: The Beach Boys
- May 22, 1997: U2
- June 9, 1999: The George Strait Chevy Truck Music Festival featuring The Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Jo Dee Messina, Mark Wills, and Asleep At The Wheel
- July 3, 2000: Dave Matthews Band
- July 16, 2000: 'N Sync - Last Concert Ever At Three Rivers Stadium
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Three Rivers Stadium.|
- Official website
- Thirty Years of Stadium Rock - Pittsburgh Music History
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on opening
- July 17, 1970 Pittsburgh Press
- July 16, 1970 Pittsburgh Press
|Events and tenants|
|Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates
1970 – 2000
|Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers
1970 – 2000
|Home of the Pittsburgh Panthers
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
|Host of the MLB All-Star Game
Milwaukee County Stadium
The Ballpark in Arlington
Miami Orange Bowl
Mile High Stadium
|Host of AFC Championship Game
Miami Orange Bowl
Jack Murphy Stadium
Mile High Stadium