Pittsburgh: America’s Greatest Sports City
Six Super Bowls, five Stanley Cups, five World Series titles and counting… when it comes to sporting success, few cities in America can match the achievements of Pittsburgh.
Home to the Steelers and Penguins, the Pirates and Panthers, the title of being America’s ‘City of Champions’ belongs to Pittsburgh. From the Steelers’ record six Superbowl victories to the all-conquering Penguins, the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, the city reigns supreme.
And so, to celebrate the city’s long and glittering sporting history, we suggest you take a tour of Pittsburgh. It’s small enough to get around on foot but boasts enough landmarks to keep any sports fan entertained. We suggest you consider these six locations for starters.
PPG Paints Arena
Start at the home of the city’s newest champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Victory over the Nashville Predators in June 2017 secured the Penguins their second consecutive Stanley Cup, the first team to win back-to-back titles in the salary cap era.
Head to the Penguins’ home, the PPG Paints Arena on Fifth Avenue, a vast, glass-fronted edifice fit for the champions (outside of which stands a must-see statue of Penguins legend Mario Lemieux — ‘Le Magnifique’).
The season runs October through June and a seat here is one of the sport’s hottest tickets. There are 18,087 seats in all — honoring the number 87 shirt worn by Penguins team captain Sidney Crosby, who helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 2009, 2016 and 2017. And while tickets sell fast they can usually be found, particularly if you search for single or triple seats rather than pairs or sets of four. Even if you can’t make a match day, a tour of the stadium is time very well spent.
The famous ‘406 ft’ Wall
In 1971, bulldozers moved into Forbes Field in the city’s Oakland neighborhood, reducing the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates to rubble. Having been built way back in 1909, Forbes Field was the site of many of Major League Baseball’s most historic moments — from the World Series win over the Detroit Tigers that debut season, right up to Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run which secured another in 1960, in the greatest MLB game ever played.
Today, the park is now part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, and the Pirates have moved on to PNC Park, beside the Allegheny River. Before the demolition began, however, a section of the red-brick wall bearing the ‘406 ft’ legend was salvaged. Since 2009, that wall has stood on the Riverwalk outside PNC Park, a reminder of where Mazeroski’s home run flew that day. It’s a monument to 60 years of Major League Baseball –and to one legendary home run.
Remember ‘The Immaculate Reception’
Spend any time in the city and you’ll notice a monument dedicated to the most famous play in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history. Back in 1972, the Steelers hadn’t won an NFL championship for 40 years and, on December 23 that year, that sad tradition seemed certain to continue.
Down by a point against the Oakland Raiders with only seconds to go, defeat seemed certain — until Franco Harris scooped up a loose ball and raced away for an unlikely touchdown.
One of the most famous plays in NFL history, many still argue if the touchdown should have stood, pointing to a possible infringement before Harris picked up the ball.
The citizens of Pittsburgh didn’t lose sleep over that — the play and victory sparked a period of dominance in which the Steelers won four Super Bowls in the next six years.
A monument to ‘The Immaculate Reception’ now stands on the exact spot in which he picked the ball up, on the site of the former Three Rivers Stadium, between Heinz Field and PNC Park. (And for good measure, the second statue of Harris stands at Pittsburgh International Airport, right beside one of George Washington.)
The Roberto Clemente Museum
Housed within a former fire station, The Roberto Clemente Museum is an ode to the Puerto Rican baseball legend who in Pittsburgh is still better known as ‘The Great One’. Clemente spent 18 Major League Baseball seasons playing as a right fielder for the Pirates between 1954 and 1972, forging his legend as the greatest player of his era.
Overcoming racial and cultural barriers, Clemente’s performances with bat and ball during that time saw him collect the 1966 MVP, the 1971 MVP and 12 straight Gold Glove awards. Through an impressive collection of memorabilia, photographs and awards, the Museum on Penn Avenue offers a fitting tribute.
Head to the North Shore neighborhood of the city, on the banks of the Allegheny River, and you’ll struggle to miss Heinz Field. Home to the most dominant NFL franchise of the modern era, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Shaped like a horseshoe and with the southern end left open, offering views of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline, steel dominates the stadium’s façade, a nod to the city’s once dominant industry.
Since moving there in 2001, the Steelers have won three conference championships and two Super Bowl championships, taking their total to an NFL record six — and hence the city’s nickname of ‘Sixburgh’.
Getting in to witness a home game during the season (September to February) is never easy — despite a 68,400 capacity, every home game is usually sold out. If you do nothing else though, take a tour and visit the excellent FedEx Great Hall – part Steelers museum, part Hall of Fame.
The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum
If you’re tight on time or you simply want to experience Pittsburgh’s entire sporting history all under one roof, head to this state-of-the-art museum at the Heinz History Center on Smallman Street. From football and baseball to hockey and golf, plus all points in between, to truly understand the way sport has shaped the city and vice versa, make this one a must-see.
A city of only 300,000, Pittsburgh is a beautifully compact city where all the main sites and experiences can be reached easily and on foot. SPG’s two Downtown hotels, The Westin Convention Center and Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square are both in the heart of the city, making both the perfect locations from which to explore the city. Slightly further out but still within easy reach is the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport Hotel. For more details, visit www.starwoodhotels.com