Why We Still Miss Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium

Back in the day, many stadiums in cities that hosted both MLB and NFL teams served a dual-purpose by being home to both teams. The only stadium that is currently in that situation is RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, which is the home stadium for both the A’s and Raiders — at least until the Raiders officially move to Las Vegas.

One dual-sport stadium that was imploded almost two decades ago is Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium. Despite it being gone for such a long time, people still have fond memories of the ballpark whose demolition paved the way for PNC Park and Heinz Field to usher in a new era for Pittsburgh sports.

Home of the Pirates and Steelers

Three Rivers Stadium opened on July 16, 1970 when it hosted its first event, the Pirates’ first game after that season’s all-star break. Unfortunately, the Pirates lost the game 3-2 in front of a crowd of 48,846.

Just over three months later, the Steelers played their first game at the stadium, losing to the Oilers 19-7 on Sept. 20, 1970, with 45,538 fans in attendance.

The Pirates lost to the Cubs 10-9 in their final game at Three Rivers on Oct. 1,  2000, while the Steelers’ last game at the stadium came on Dec. 16, 2000, a 24-3 victory over the Redskins. That was the last event at Three Rivers Stadium, which was demolished on Feb. 11, 2001.

Memorable moments and milestones

Three Rivers Stadium was the site of several memorable moments and milestones for both teams that played their home games at the stadium. Among the highlights were:

  • The first World Series night game on Oct. 13, 1971 (the Pirates beat the Orioles 4-3)
  • MLB All-Star Games in 1974 and 1994
  • Roberto Clemente recorded his 3,000th hit on Sept. 30, 1972
  • Franco Harris made the legendary Immaculate Reception on Dec. 23, 1972

It wasn’t just sports events that were held at the stadium. There were concerts there, as well, beginning with Al Hirt and the Three Rivers New Orleans Music Festival on Aug. 24, 1970.

Some notable acts who performed at Three Rivers Stadium include Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Simon and Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, U2, and Elton John. The final concert held there was performed by ‘N Sync on July 16, 2000.

Three Rivers implosion and replacements

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the multipurpose “cookie-cutter stadiums” like Three Rivers had gone out of style, which helped speed up its demise and eventual implosion. It took just 19 seconds for the stadium to come down on a Sunday morning.

In the wake of Three Rivers coming down, the Steelers and the Pirates got their wish for getting their own stadiums to help generate extra revenue for the teams.

The Pirates played their first game at PNC Park on March 31, 2001, which was an exhibition game against the Mets. They would play their first regular-season game at their new ballpark on April 9, and as with their Three Rivers opener they lost, this time with the Reds beating them 8-2.

After ending their tenure at Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers opened up their new stadium, Heinz Field, but they weren’t part of the first event held there. Heinz Field opened on Aug. 18, 2001, with another ‘N Sync concert.

The Steelers played their first game there on Aug. 25, a preseason contest with the Lions. And the first regular-season game at Heinz Field was scheduled for Sept. 16, but it was delayed due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks which postponed all NFL games that week. The Steelers’ first home game ended up being Oct.7, when they beat the Bengals 16-7.