Saint Vincent College in Latrobe (PA) is once again overflowing with black and gold as the Pittsburgh Steelers host their 54th consecutive Training Camp in 2019. The first weekend has already passed, but camp continues through August 15. This Fan Friday, we thought it'd be fun to give Steelers Nation a primer on why camp is an adventure in and of itself and information on how to make the best of time while in Latrobe by focusing on Friday Night Lights and the training camp weekend that will be capped off at Heinz Field with Family Fest.
Friday Night Lights and Steelers Fest in Latrobe
This weekend will be a busy one. On Friday (August 2), 'Steelers Fest' (also known as 'Friday Night Lights') will be held at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. Lasting nearly all day (12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.), the Steelers hold a mini-festival that is focused on the whole family that is capped off with team practice under the lights. This is an event many Steelers fans who've attended in the past look forward to every year. Besides photo opportunities with the six Lombardi Trophies the Steelers have earned, families can play free games, grab some excellent food and find a ton of entertainment to do before the actual practice begins. Jon Kolb and Arthur Moats will be the former Steelers in attendance to do meet-and-greets.
The players love the opportunity to play in an atmosphere that is reminiscent of their high school days, but the fans enjoy it just as much. Although most of the activities are free, tickets to get into Latrobe Memorial Stadium are $5 and can be purchased at the ticket office on August 2, or by calling 724-539-4225 extension 25205.
Saturday in Latrobe
On Saturday, regular practice resumes at St. Vincent where Jason Gildon will be doing the Steelers meet-and-greet. Practice kicks off, weather permitting, at 2:55 p.m.
Sunday is the Steelers' annual Family Fest at Heinz Field. Arrive early because lines can be long, but you and the family can enjoy entertainment on Art Rooney Ave. The event kicks off at 4:00 p.m. Some of the entertainment includes the CBS Pop-Up Experience, attend meet-and-greets (FedEx Great Hall: Will Allen (6-7pm), Bryan Hinkle (7-8pm), Charlie Batch (8-9pm) - Ford Fan Zone: Rod Woodson (6-7pm), Merril Hoge (7-8pm), Chris Hoke (8-9pm) - West Main Concourse: Bruce Gradkowski (6-7pm), Santonio Holmes (7-8pm), Dwayne Woodruff (8-9pm), and then enjoy tours at Heinz Field before official practice begins. The gates will open for the practice at 5:30 p.m. with practice scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. You will be required to purchase tickets for Family Fest.
To get all of the information and purchase tickets, go to the Steelers' official Family Fest page.
The Steelers typically hold some extra special events during Family Fest. Members of law enforcement and Special Olympics athletes will escort the players out of the tunnel to begin practice. The United States Army will hold a swearing-in ceremony. Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley will be providing analysis from the east sideline during practice. The Steeline Drumline will also offer a performance.
Things to consider
Parking in Latrobe is always at a premium, so planning ahead is a must - especially if you're taking kids that may not be as patient as adults when trying to get into the events. Last year's Friday Night Lights drew a record crowd of over 11,000 people: so keep that in mind not only for parking, but the events fill up fast and getting there earlier often means you won't face a standing room only situation.
This is also true of the Heinz Field Family Fest, which nears 40,000 people: crowds could get very gameday-like, with lines waiting to get past security at the entrance gates. Again, plan accordingly.
Based on personal experience as well as speaking to others who've attended both events, it's always good to use a similar clear bag policy as you would if you were attending a regular game at Heinz Field so that security can make sure everyone has an enjoyable time. (This is required at Heinz Field, but regular bags and small coolers are permitted, upon inspection, at the Latrobe Memorial Stadium and Saint Vincent College practices.)
These events draw large crowds, so dress accordingly for the weather and wear a good pair of shoes so that you can get to everything you really want to see. There's some walking involved along Saint Vincent campus, and you may have to park several blocks from the high school session for Friday Night Lights. Make sure you also bring sunscreen if attending the afternoon session, but if you burn easily, having some on hand in the evening isn't a bad idea either as the sun can be deceptively scortching even with a forecast in the low 80's.
Having something to record your experience is a must (camera or phone?) - and if you want to get an opportunity to have a player give you an autograph, take a permanent marker and item(s) with you because the players don't always have a writing instrument or item in-hand. (And by all means, please bring something that's of value of you to sign: players are already looking to make a kid's day, but an adult with a gross sweat-stained cap or napkin from the concession stand are even less likely to score that precious signature!)
If you're ready for anything, you're guaranteed to have one of the best experiences members of Steelers Nation can have: up close and personal with the team you love.