The landscape of Pittsburgh’s North Shore has definitely changed over the past 15-20 years. Before PNC Park and Heinz Field book-ended a modernized North Shore, Pittsburgh’s sports fanatics flocked to the most infamous of what was called “cookie cutter” stadiums…Three Rivers Stadium. Make no mistake, PNC Park and Heinz Field were a pleasant addition to the Steel City’s recent modernization process, and have really helped to revitalize the North Shore. However, a conversation could be made that when Three Rivers Stadium was torn down, so was one of the most iconic sports venues in North American history. As beautiful as the new stadiums are, the vibe at Three Rivers Stadium was untouchable.
After a 29 month build process, which included several setbacks, Three Rivers Stadium finally opened on July 16th, 1970. The visiting Cincinnati Reds defeated the Pirates 2-1. The new facility, which cost $50 Million (roughly $355 Million today), was designed to hold both the Pirates and Steelers more efficiently than the legendary Forbes Field could. Forbes was still an incredible and breathtaking atmosphere for baseball, however many felt the “baseball first” design was holding Pittsburgh’s football team back from achieving success in the NFL. In the first 10 years of the stadium’s opening, the Pirates and Steelers delivered a combined 6 world championships. Maybe there was something to that sentiment after all!
Three Rivers Stadium was also the home of the short-lived Pittsburgh Maulers USFL franchise, as well as special event games for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football team. The Panthers also called Three Rivers Stadium their home for the entire 2000 season.
Three Rivers was notorious for holding huge concerts as well. The biggest names in music played Three Rivers Stadium. Performers like U2, Guns N’ Roses, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Stevie Wonder, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band, and many, many more. The final concert at Three Rivers Stadium was held on the 40th anniversary of the stadium’s opening, when then pop sensation N’Sync performed on July 16th, 2000. We can look back and laugh at the act in question now, but the reality is even in Three Rivers’ final days, the stadium was drawing the largest acts in the world!
Three Rivers Stadium was also the first stadium in MLB and NFL to use “tartan turf”, or, artificial turf. A few years later, the turf was replaced with the then-branded “AstroTurf”.
We can all agree that in it’s final days, Three Rivers was ready to be replaced. While bittersweet, it was time. On February 11th, 2001, in front of an estimated 50,000 fans (some would say more) who braved a chilly Pittsburgh morning, the stadium was imploded at 8 o’clock in the morning. Cheers and tears flowed through the surroundings of the North Shore, as fans of all ages reminisced with generations of family and friends. In it’s short 30 year window in Pittsburgh history, Three Rivers Stadium unquestionably left an “immaculate” mark.
If you’re suddenly feeling nostalgic, you can amazingly still visit the Three Rivers Stadium website…HERE!