Steelers Throwback Thursday: Ground breaking ceremony construction on Heinz Field

Before the NFL officially gears up for the 2021-22 season, Steel City Underground will be taking fans back in time to feature events, special moments, and historical times in the world of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Steelers Nation. Join us as we revisit these moments in our “Throwback Thursdays”.

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June 18, 1999, the ground breaking ceremony took place that begun construction on Heinz Field. The ceremony was co-hosted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh.

From 1970 to 2000, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers shared the same facility, Three Rivers Stadium. After discussions to build a full-time baseball park for the Pirates, the proposal was made to renovate Three Rivers Stadium to a full-time football facility. After much discussion on renovation versus building a new facility, H. J. Heinz Company purchased the naming rights to the stadium in June of 2001.

The stadium was designed by HOK Sport where the Rooney family asked for the design to acknowledge the history of Pittsburgh but also bring an element of ‘looking forward,’ this is where Pittsburgh is going. Included in the design was a steel, external structure. Due to great views of surrounding Pittsburgh, lots of glass was used in the design to help modernize the stadium as well as paying tribute to the views surrounding the city.

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Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Panthers have their own locker rooms, which are different in size due to the number of players on a college versus a professional team. The visitors locker rooms are modeled after the home locker rooms’ design. Just like Three Rivers Stadium, Heinz Field’s culinary provider is Aramark, which has over 400 eateries throughout the stadium.

The bronze statue of Art Rooney was moved from Three Rivers Stadium to just outside Heinz Field, which is similar to those located outside PNC Park. For the University of Pittsburgh, there is a statue of a Panther over a paved depiction of Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. It is placed outside of Gate A. At the time, the 96 Sony JumboTron was the largest scoreboard in the NFL in 2001.

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The Heinz Ketchup bottles are exact replicas. The enlarged 14-oz glass bottle to the embossed “57” on the bottle’s neck. Each bottled used 8,000 pounds of fiberglass, 20,500 LEDs, and 375 feet of neon tubing. Each bottle measures 35 by 9 feet, and each weigh 8,000 pounds. If the bottles were actually filled with ketchup, they would have 1,664,000 fluid ounces each. That would be enough to give each fan in the stadium their own 14-ounce ketchup bottle.

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