Three Rivers Stadium was one of the
main items in the transformation of the Pittsburgh riverfront from an industrial
center into a showcase attraction to highlight the Golden Triangle. Conceived
in the 1950s during Renaissance I as a replacement for aging Forbes
Field, many different
designs were debated.
One interesting design submitted in 1958 envisioned a stadium built on the Monongahela
River. The Smithfield Street Bridge would be replaced by a massive span,
complete with adjoining parking and hotel, along with the stadium. The
complex would be built entirely above water.
A proposal submitted in 1958 for a
Pittsburgh stadium built entirely above the Monongahela River.
Eventually, the north shore was
chosen as the spot for the new "Pittsburgh Stadium." The complex would
include hotels, restaurants and a riverfront park to complement the new
state-of-the-art multi-purpose stadium. The original stadium prototype was
a bit different from the final design. It was round with an open end facing
the city. Due to cost constraints, this design was modified into the
The original prototype model for
Pittsburgh Stadium. The open end was closed in the final design.
Although the hotel and restaurant
development never materialized, the stadium that was to be the centerpiece
of the north shore renaissance was built. Ground was broken in April of 1968
and construction was completed in June of 1970. In between the ground-breaking
and the completion of construction, the structure was given a new name,
"Three Rivers Stadium." The Pirates left Forbes
Field after sixty-one years
and moved into their new home in July 1970. The Steelers eagerly followed that
The Pirates made playoff appearances in
five of their first six seasons at Three Rivers. Manager Danny Murtaugh and
"The Lumber Company" captured a World Series title in 1971. Pirate legend
Roberto Clemente got his 3000th and final hit during the last home game of the
1972 season. Pitcher John Candelaria threw the first no-hitter in 1976. The
Buccos gained another title in 1979 with Manager Chuck Tanner, Captain Willie
Stargell and "The Family".
The first game played in Three Rivers
Stadium took place on July 16, 1970.
The Pirates of the early 1990s again
brought the National League Championship series to the home turf. Manager Jim
Leyland and the "Killer Bees", featuring Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, came
up short of the World Series three consecutive years. The 1993 season was the
final time the Pirates compiled a winning record at Three Rivers Stadium.
In 1979, all eyes were on the Pirates, the
Steelers, and the "City of Champions".
The Steelers also made the most of their
new home field. Franco Harris made the Immaculate Reception at home during the
1972 playoffs, arguably the greatest play in NFL history. In 1974, Coach Chuck
Noll and his gridiron juggernaut captured the first of four Vince Lombardi Trophies
earned during the 1970s. The Steelers engaged in three epic AFC championship games
against the Oakland Raider's (1975) and Houston Oilers (1978 and 1979).
In what many called home field advantage,
these battles were all fought on frozen turf; perfect Steeler football weather.
The Steelers adorned the stadium facade with the Roman Numerals IX, X, XIII and XIV.
Pittsburgh became known as the "City of Champions". Three Rivers Stadium, now an icon to sports fans
around the globe, was the place to be.
Houston Oiler Coach Bum Phillips, after
failing in the AFC championship two years in a row, uttered in frustration, "The
road to the Super Bowl runs through Pittsburgh." During the 1970s, no truer words
were spoken. The Steel Curtain, led by "Mean" Joe Greene, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes,
and L.C. Greenwood was adept at stopping all traffic. In the 1975 Pro Bowl, eight
of eleven defensive starters were Pittsburgh Steelers!
Then, in the 1990s, the Steelers brought
the playoff magic back to Pittsburgh under Coach Bill Cowher with an AFC championship
win over the Indianapolis Colts in 1995. The team, led by Rod Woodson and Greg Lloyd,
failed to bring home one-for-the-thumb, losing to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl
By the turn of the century,
cookie-cutter type multi-purpose stadiums like Pittsburgh's Three Rivers
Stadium, Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium and Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium
were no longer financially or aesthetically pleasing to the professional sports
world. In February 11, 2001, the 33-year reign of Pittsburgh's Stadium of Champions
came to an end. Three Rivers Stadium came crashing down in a thunderous, controlled
demolition to make way for the Pirates PNC Park and the Steelers Heinz Field.
The Pittsburgh Pirates play the Montreal
Expos at Three Rivers Stadium in 1974.
For More Interesting Facts on
Pittsburgh Sports Stadiums (past and present),
visit Fun Facts About Pittsburgh's Ball
Wikipedia: Three Rivers Stadium.