This Week in Pittsburgh History: Three Rivers Stadium Opens
It would last for 30 years and be demolished with just half of its original debt paid off.
On July 16, 1970, Dock Ellis took the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates to start the first baseball game, a sellout, at Three Rivers Stadium. Richie Hebner scored the first run and Willie Stargell hit the first Pirates home run in the stadium’s history. Nevertheless, the Pirates lost to the Cincinnati Reds 3-2. Two months later, the Steelers played their first game at Three Rivers, a 19-7 loss to the Houston Oilers.
In its 30-year history, the stadium hosted two World Series, two All-Star games, seven AFC Championship football games and more than three dozen concerts including Three Dog Night, Jackson 5, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Genesis, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Elton John and the Dave Matthews Band.
By the early 1990s, multipurpose stadiums were considered by many to be ugly, obsolete and not financially viable. The Pirates and Steelers began campaigns for new stadiums. Against considerable public opposition, government funding was approved in 1999 to build Heinz Field and PNC Park.
The Pirates played their last game at Three Rivers on Oct. 1, 2000, a 10-9 loss to the Chicago Cubs. After the game, Stargell threw out the ceremonial last pitch. Two months later, on Dec. 16, the Steelers played their final game at Three Rivers, defeating the Washington Redskins 24-3.
On Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001, with the temperature just 21 degrees, more than 20,000 people filled Point State Park to watch the implosion of Three Rivers Stadium. At the time, the stadium still had a debt of just less than $28 million, some of it from the original construction and the rest from renovations in the mid-1980s. It would take until 2010 for Three Rivers to be paid off.
Learn more about the city’s past at The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh Facebook page.