American Football Database
Three Rivers Stadium
Location600 Stadium Circle
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15212
OwnerCity of Pittsburgh
OperatorPittsburgh Stadium Authority
CapacityFootball: 59,000
Baseball: 47,952
Field sizeLeft 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
SurfaceTartan Turf (1970–1982)
AstroTurf (1983–2000)
Broke groundApril 26, 1968
OpenedJuly 16, 1970
ClosedDecember 16, 2000
DemolishedFebruary 11, 2001
Construction costUS$55 million
($311 million in 2022 dollars[1])
ArchitectDeeter Ritchy Sipple, Michael Baker, Jr. and Osborn Engineering
Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) (1970–2000)
Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) (1970–2000)
Pittsburgh Maulers (USFL) (1984)
Pittsburgh Panthers (NCAA) (2000)

Three Rivers Stadium was a multi-purpose stadium located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1970 to 2000. It was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the city's Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise and National Football League (NFL) franchise respectively.

Built as a replacement to Forbes Field, which opened in 1909, the US$55 million 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.[2] 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.[3][4]

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.[5] The Pittsburgh Pirates played their home games at Forbes Field, which opened in 1909,[6] and was the oldest venue in the National League (Chicago's Wrigley Field was next-oldest, having been built in 1914).[5] The Pittsburgh Steelers, who had moved from Forbes Field to Pitt Stadium in 1964, were large supporters of the project.[5] For their part, according to longtime Pirates announcer Bob Prince, the Pirates wanted a bigger place to play in order to draw more revenue.[7]

In 1958, the Pirates sold Forbes to the University of Pittsburgh for $2 million. The university wanted the land for expanded graduate facilities.[7] As part of the deal, the university leased Forbes back to the Pirates until a replacement could be built.[8] 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.[9] Plans of the "Stadium over the Monongahela" were eventually not pursued.[10] A design was presented in 1958 which featured an open center field design—through which fans could view Pittsburgh's "Golden Triangle".[11] A site on the city's Northside was approved on August 10, 1958, due to land availability and parking space,[11] the latter of which had been a problem at Forbes Field.[5] The same site had hosted Exposition Park, which the Pirates had left in 1909.[12] 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.[7] Political debate continued over the North Side Sports Stadium and the project was often behind schedule and over-budget.[11] Arguments were made by commissioner Dr. William McCelland that the Pirates and Steelers should fund a higher percentage of the $33 million project. Due to lack of support, however, the arguments faded.[11]

File:Three Rivers Stadium 1977.ogv

Boat pulls a water-skier from the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers at Point State Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania toward Three Rivers Stadium on the northern shore of the Ohio River, circa 1977.

Ground for Three Rivers Stadium was broken on April 25, 1968.[11] Due to the Steelers' suggestions, the stadium's design was changed to enclose center field.[11] Construction continued, though it became plagued with problems such as thieves stealing materials from the building site.[11] In November 1969, Arthur Gratz asked the city for an additional $3 million, which was granted.[13] 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.[13] The stadium was named due 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.[14]

Design and alterations

File:Pittsburgh Stadium.JPG

Three Rivers Stadium in 1996 during a Steelers game

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.[15][16] Due to their similar design these stadiums were nicknamed "cookie-cutter" ballparks.[7] The sight lines were more favorable to football; almost 70 percent of the seats in the baseball configuration were in foul territory.[7] It originally seated 50,611 for baseball,[7] but several expansions over the years brought it to 58,729.[17] In 1993, the Pirates placed tarps on most of the upper deck to create a better baseball atmosphere, reducing capacity to 47,687.[7][18][19] The stadium originally contained Tartan Turf, though it was replaced by a number of other surfaces including AstroTurf.[20] Renovations for the start of the 1983 baseball season included the initial placement of AstroTurf, the center field scoreboard being removed and replaced with new seating -- while a new Diamond Vision scoreboard was installed at the top of the center field upper deck -- and the outfield fence being painted blue.[21] The field originally used "Gamesaver vacuum vehicles" to dry the surface, though they were replaced by an underground drainage system.[20] In 1975, the baseball field's outfield fences were moved ten feet closer to home plate, in an attempt to boost home run numbers.[20] 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.[20]

File:Wagner statue 930606.JPG

Honus Wagner statue
at Three Rivers

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.[22][23] On August 11, 1985[1], Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hosted the largest concert in Pittsburgh history, when they performed for 65,935 on-lookers.[24] And in 1992, the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated their second Stanley Cup victory at the Stadium.[23] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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.


In September 1991, planning began to build a new baseball park for the Pittsburgh Pirates.[27] As talks continued, a proposal to re-model Three Rivers Stadium into a full-time football stadium was made.[28] However, Steelers ownership did not support the idea, stating that a new venue would be needed for the franchise to remain competitive.[29] 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.[30] Ground was broken for the new stadiums in 1999.[31][32] On October 1, 2000, the Pirates were defeated 10–9 by the Chicago Cubs in their final game at Three Rivers Stadium.[19] After the game, former Pirate Willie Stargell threw out the ceremonial last pitch.[33] Two months later on December 16, 2000, the Steelers concluded play at Three Rivers Stadium, with a 24-3 victory over the Washington Redskins.[34]

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".[35] The demolition cost $5.1 million and used 4,800 pounds of explosive.[36][37] 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.

Seating capacity


  • 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)
  • 54,212 (1980-1983)
  • 59,492 (1984-1990)
  • 59,622 (1991-2000)

Stadium usage


Three Rivers Stadium opened on July 16, 1970, when the Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 3–2, in front of 48,846 spectators.[18][38] The first pitch was thrown by Dock Ellis—a strike—to Ty Cline.[39] The first hit in the stadium was by Pittsburgh's Richie Hebner, in the bottom of the first inning.[39] The Pirates lifted their local blackout policy so that local fans could see the inaugural game.[40] In the Pirates' lowest season of attendance, 1985, an average of 9,085 people attended each game.[41] The average attendance would peak in 1991, when Pittsburgh attracted 25,498 spectators to an average game.[41] 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.[10] 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 ever World Series game played at night.[10] Pittsburgh hosted its third Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1974. The National League won the game by a score of 7–2. Pirates' pitcher Ken Brett was the game winning pitcher.[42] Twenty years later, the midsummer classic returned to Three Rivers Stadium. In front of 59,568 spectators, the largest crowd to ever attend a baseball game at the stadium,[18] 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.[43] On September 30, 1972, Pirates' right-fielder Roberto Clemente got his 3,000th hit at Three Rivers Stadium, three months before his death.[10]

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.[44]


"No matter what happens, when they tear Three Rivers down, a monument ought to be built there. Even if they end up building a hockey rink there, they should put some kind of a monument to that area where the Immaculate Reception took place."
"Frenchy" Fuqua[45]

The Pittsburgh Steelers played their first game in Three Rivers Stadium on September 20, 1970—a 19–7 loss to the Houston Oilers.[19] 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.[46] 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.[19] 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.[45] Three Rivers Stadium hosted seven AFC Championship Games from 1972 to 1998;[19][47] the Steelers won four.[48] 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.[47][47] 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.[49]

Metallica and Guns N' Roses brought their co-headlining Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour to the stadium on July 26, 1992, with Faith No More as their opening act.

The Three Rivers Stadium is also part of a sequence from The Song Remains the Same (1976), a documentary of Led Zeppelin's 1973 tour. Many other Pittsburgh landmarks are also shown, including the Liberty Tunnel, the old Pittsburgh International Airport (1952-1992) and Liberty Bridge.


  1. Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  2. "31 Slices of Three Rivers History". Three Rivers Stadium. Archived from the original on February 25, 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  3. "Pittsburgh Maulers". Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  4. "A fond farewell". CNN Sports Illustrated. 2000-12-15. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Mehno 1995, pp. 9
  6. Leventhal 2000, pp. 52
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Smith, Curt (2001). Storied Stadiums. New York City: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-1187-1.
  8. Mehno 1995, pp. 9–10
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Leventhal 2000, pp. 51
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Mehno 1995, pp. 10
  12. McCollister 1998, pp. 175
  13. 13.0 13.1 Mehno 1995, pp. 13
  14. Gershman 1993, pp. 224
  15. Gershman 1993, pp. 191
  16. Cagan, Jonathan; Craig M. Vogel (2001). Creating Breakthrough Products. FT Press. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-13-969694-7.
  17. "Pirates to Reduce Stadium Capacity". Sports. Associated Press (The New York Times). 1993-01-24. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Leventhal 2000, pp. 50
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Steve Gietschier. "Three Rivers Stadium - (Pittsburgh, 1970-2000)". Sporting News. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Mehno 1995, pp. 14
  21. "CSC TV-5 1983 Pirates Special (Part 2)".
  22. "Led Zeppelin, July 24, 1973, Pittsburgh, PA, Three Rivers Stadium".
  23. 23.0 23.1 Mehno 1995, pp. 15
  24. "Pittsburgh brings down Three Rivers Stadium". U.S.. 2000-02-11. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  25. Adler Sr., Bill (2007-10-16). Ask Billy Graham: The World's Best-Loved Preacher Answers Your Most Important Questions. Thomas Nelson. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-8499-0310-6. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  26. Vancheri, Barbara (January 24, 2003). "Multi Media: Adrien Brody going darker and deeper". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
  27. Bouma, Ben (1998). "Heading for Home". On Deck: the Official Magazine of the Pittsburgh Pirates 3 (3): 42–8.
  28. Cook, Ron (1998-06-22). "Plan B flawed; option is worse". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  29. Bouchette, Ed (2001-08-24). "Heinz Field: Standing up to the competition". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  30. Barnes, Tom; Dvorchak, Robert (1998-07-10). "Plan B approved: Play ball!". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  31. "Steelers Break Ground for New Football Stadium". 1999-06-18. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  32. Barnes, Tom (1999-04-08). "City, Pirates break ground for PNC Park with big civic party". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
  33. Finoli, Dave (2006). The Pittsburgh Pirates. Arcadia Publishing. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-7385-4915-6.
  34. "PRO FOOTBALL; Steelers Rout Redskins in Last Three Rivers Game". Sports (The New York Times). 2000-12-17. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  35. Tom Barnes (2000-02-12). "A Dynamite Drumroll and Three Rivers Stadium Bows Out". Sports. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.,2756313. Retrieved 2010-02-03.
  36. "PLUS: STADIUMS; Three Rivers Is Demolished at 30". Archives (The New York Times). 2000-02-12. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  37. "Three Rivers Stadium: History". Sports. Associated Press ( 2000-02-11. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  38. Koppett, Leonard (1970-07-17). "Pirates Open Their New Park, But Reds Celebrate 3-2 Victory". Sports (The New York Times). Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  39. 39.0 39.1 Mehno 1995, pp. 42
  40. Mehno 1995, pp. 8
  41. 41.0 41.1 "Pittsburgh Pirates Attendance, Stadiums and Park Factors". Pittsburgh Pirates. Baseball Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  42. Emert, Rich (2003-07-14). "Where are they now? Brett's All-Star win a big thrill". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  43. "Pirates' Long Ball Wins a Long Game". Sports. Associated Press (The New York Times). 1989-08-07. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  45. 45.0 45.1 Chuck Finder. "The house that the 'Immaculate Reception' built". Sporting News. Retrieved 2008-08-07.
  46. "Steelers' former radio announcer Myron Cope dies at 79". Associated Press. USA Today. 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 "Number three". Three Rivers top Greatest Play and Game. Retrieved 2008-08-07.[dead link]
  48. "NFL & Pro Football League Encyclopedia". Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  49. Cope, Myron (2002). Double Yoi! (1st ed.). Sports Publishing, L.L.C.. pp. 142–7. ISBN 978-1-58261-548-6.
  • Gershman, Michael (1993). Diamonds: The Evolution of the Ballpark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-61212-5.
  • Leventhal, Josh; Jessica MacMurray (2000). Take Me Out to the Ballpark. New York: Workman Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-57912-112-9.
  • McCollister, John (1998). The Bucs! The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Lenexa, KS: Addax Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-886110-40-3.
  • Mehno, John (1995). "History of the Stadium". Pittsburgh Pirates Official 1995 Commemorative Yearbook (Sports Media, Inc.).

External links

Events and tenants
Preceded by
Forbes Field
Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates
1970 – 2000
Succeeded by
PNC Park
Preceded by
Pitt Stadium
Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers
1970 – 2000
Succeeded by
Heinz Field
Preceded by
Pitt Stadium
Home of the Pittsburgh Panthers
Succeeded by
Heinz Field
Preceded by
Royal Stadium
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Host of the MLB All-Star Game
Succeeded by
Milwaukee County Stadium
The Ballpark in Arlington
Preceded by
Miami Orange Bowl
Oakland Coliseum
Mile High Stadium
Ralph Wilson Stadium
Foxboro Stadium
Host of AFC Championship Game
1979 – 1980
1995 – 1996
Succeeded by
Miami Orange Bowl
Oakland Coliseum
Jack Murphy Stadium
Foxboro Stadium
Mile High Stadium

Template:Pittsburgh Pirates

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Three Rivers Stadium.
The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with American Football Database, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.