From Schenley Casino to Forbes Field to CONSOL Energy – A Tale of Pittsburgh’s Sports Arenas
I thought that it would only be fitting that I post a picture of the two hockey arenas in Pittsburgh since I posted the football and baseball stadiums the last couple days. The city of Pittsburgh truly has been blessed with some incredible sports venues, and both of these are no exception. I did a write up on Mellon Arena, the old home of the Penguins a view months back, when I was blogging every month and a half or so. I wanted to take some time and talk about the sporting arena in general, especially those in Pittsburgh.
Now, we haven’t always had the good fortune of having three of the best venues to watch professional sports in the country. It all started back in 1895 with the Schenley Park Casino, which was Pittsburgh’s first multi use arena, and the first arena in the country to have an artificial ice surface. It was destroyed in 1896 by a gas explosion. That was succeeded by the Duquesne Gardens, which played host to a variety of sports teams, but mainly the Pittsburgh Pirates (who became known later as the Penguins…totally different from the baseball team, as the baseball Pirates have been around since the late 1800’s). Duquesne Gardens was the first arena to actually have glass above the dasher boards, developed by (you guessed it) Pittsburgh Plate Glass (ok, so maybe if you weren’t from Pittsburgh you didn’t guess it). It stayed open from 1899 until 1956, when it was destroyed as the city was beginning construction on the new Civic Arena (more on this in a bit). But that was strictly for basketball and hockey. The Pirates (baseball) needed a home too. They first played at Exposition Park, which was located not too far from the current location of PNC Park along Pittsburgh’s North Shore. They played their home games there for almost 20 years, from 1890 until 1909, when they moved to the famous Forbes Field. Here they would share the stadium with the Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers until 1970.
However parts of the field still remain around Pittsburgh today. You can see the left field wall over which Bill Mazeroski hit his legendary home run to beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, as well as a statue of Maz outside of PNC Park (pictured above). You can also find the home plate from Forbes Field in Posvar Hall at the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, very near its exact location in the park, and the outline of the outfield wall still remains. Two separate fires sadly forced the demolition of this historic venue in 1971, being replaced by Three Rivers Stadium.
Three Rivers, aptly named for being where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio near the Point in Pittsburgh, played home for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers for three decades. It was built in the era of “cookie cutter” stadiums, very drab on the outside, and not much better on the interior. In fact, for baseball games, they had to tarp off sections of the seats directly behind center field, as it would interfere with the batters’ ability to pick up the ball from the hand of the pitcher (newer stadiums simply do not have seats there, including PNC Park). The park could be reconfigured to suit both football and baseball, but by the early 1990s, talks had begun to get the Pirates their own stadium and remodel the existing Three Rivers to be strictly a football venue. In July 1999, over $800 million worth of funding was approved for both Heinz Field (pictured above) and PNC Park (pictured below), and ground was broken to begin construction in 1999, with both teams enjoying their new homes for the 2001 seasons. I’ve only ever seen one game in Heinz Field (and it was a hockey game, the Winter Classic), but it is one of the most unique football stadiums in the country, with the open end giving spectators a view of the city of Pittsburgh and the Point. PNC Park is consistently voted the most beautiful baseball park in the country, again having one whole side of the park open and being able to see the entire city skyline.
As for the Civic Arena (pictured below), home of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1966 until 2010, I won’t go into a lot of details since I’ve written about it before. Feel free to check out that post. I will mention that it was the first domed sporting venue that had a retractable roof, though it has not been functional for over a decade. One interesting fact is that when it opened it contained only 12,508, just eight seats over the minimum NHL requirement for capacity.
In August of 2010, the CONSOL Energy, pictured above, opened and it makes the Civic Arena look like something from ancient Rome. Don’t get me wrong, I love the “Igloo” as the Civic Arena was nicknamed, there is something about old sporting venues that you just have to appreciate. But CONSOL is the new model that arenas will be built around in the future.
I took the last shot, which is today’s upload, on my photowalk last Saturday morning. I did the best I could to include all both the Civic Arena and CONSOL in the photo, but this is literally as far back as I could stand, as there was a fence and a steep fill behind me. This is a side of the building that I’ve captured before, though you weren’t able to see the Igloo in the background. For the processing, this is a seven exposure HDR processed in HDR Efex under the Clean HDR Method. Masked in the entire sky as well as the flags, as it was really windy on this particular morning and I had crazy ghosting effects. Overall desaturation and then added a blue curves layer for the sky, as well as a Tonal Contrast Filter from Color Efex, then finished it off the with a High Pass Sharpening filter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little walk down Pittsburgh sports arena memory lane. Catch you tomorrow.