So I was listening to the Cook and Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan while driving through the lovely Robinson area on Friday morning when the discussion turned to the naming rights of the stadium that has been home to your Pittsburgh Steelers since 2001—currently Heinz Field—and whether or not it will be called something else by as soon as the start of the 2022 regular season.
I honestly don’t remember what these two dudes, and their callers, settled on because I really don’t care what they call the football stadium with the mustard yellow seats.
Just as long as they don’t call it a dump. That’s right, after switching the stations a few times in the hopes of catching part or all of that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” song, I tuned back into The Fan as I was driving through the lovely Carnegie area later that same Friday morning when the folks on the Cook and Joe Show started discussing the possibility of Heinz Field now being out of date, antiquated, a dump.
A dump? Are you kidding me? A freaking dump? I believe it was Ron Cook who suggested Heinz was a dump because it wasn’t up to par with the likes of FirstEnergy Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium and Paul Brown Stadium and was lagging way behind the newer palaces such as SoFi Stadium and AT&T Stadium (better known as the Jerry World). I can’t comment on FirstEnergy Stadium and M&T Bank Stadium because I have never been to either place. I have been to Paul Brown Stadium and it seemed like a fine enough venue to see a football game. It’s obvious to anyone with eyesight that SoFi Stadium and AT&T Stadium, two places erected long after Heinz Field first opened in 2001, are superior and have far-more amenities.
But it’s one thing to say other NFL stadiums are superior to Heinz Field. It’s quite another to call it a dump.
However, that is how a few callers, who were in agreement with Ron Cook's assessment, described it on Friday. You see, Heinz Field just doesn’t have the luxury box capabilities and other such niceties to keep up with Jerry Jones’ of the professional football world.
But it's clean, right? It's comfortable, no? The sightlines are up to par, yes? I mean, there are times when Kenny Chesney has a concert at Heinz Field and turns the place into a huge dump, but doesn't Kenny Chesney have that effect on everything he touches--including music?
I realize I might be overreacting to a random radio segment on a Friday morning in late February—well, I believe they milked about eight segments out of it—and it may have just been fluff and filler.
But what if it wasn’t some random talk-radio filler in late February as a means to break up the non-stop “Who’s going to be the next Steelers quarterback?” talk? What if this grows legs? I remember Sophie Masloff, the late mayor of Pittsburgh, first proposing new stadiums for the Pirates and Steelers in the very-early ‘90s and being laughed at by the local yocals.
However, it wasn’t long—probably the mid-’90s or so—before new stadiums for both the Pirates and Steelers were deemed essential in order to ensure neither team would move away.
In case you don’t know math, Three Rivers Stadium, which opened in 1970, had entered its early 20s by the beginning of the 90s, which is how old Heinz Field is right now.
Twenty-plus years, is that all we can hope to get out of a sports venue before an owner starts clamoring for an upgrade?
In addition to old TRS, there are other examples in recent sports history.
I remember being absolutely stunned that the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, which opened in 1992, was already being replaced by another enclosed venue in 2017—Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Georgia Dome had played host to many significant sporting events over the years—including the 1996 Summer Olympics, two Super Bowls and several Final Fours—yet, this facility, one that was considered to be state-of-the-art not long before, was reduced to rubble a quarter of a century after it first opened.
It’s not just football stadiums, either. The Atlanta Braves, the defending World Series Champions, have gone through so many ballparks since 1996—Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Turner Field and Truist Park—I actually had to research them all to make sure it wasn’t just my imagination.
Maybe you think it’s just an Atlanta thing, but no. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, a multi-sport facility that opened in 1982 and included both the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins as tenants, was already relegated to dump status by the late-90s. Jesse “The Governor” Ventura was so incensed by this, he vowed that taxpayers would never...ever...foot the bill for a new stadium(s). The taxpayers of Minnesota eventually did, at least partially, and Target Field (Twins) and U.S. Bank Stadium (Vikings) opened in 2010 and 2016, respectively.
Look, I don’t want to turn this article into an “I’m a taxpayer!/These damn rich owners!” rally, but come on!
My mom lives in a house that’s like 888 years old and has been dealing with plaster falling from her ceiling for years because, number one, her landlord is a doofus and, number two, her son wasn't born with the alpha-male gene necessary to fix it himself.
Yet, she refuses to move.
Why do these team owners so often threaten to move their franchises to a new city at the first sight of the slightest crack and/or a newer stadium that was just built for another franchise?
Of course, a newer stadium is going to have nicer things than an older one. Again, though, that doesn’t automatically make the older stadium a dump.
Honestly, I don’t care if/when Heinz Field gets torn down and a new football stadium gets built in its place. I just don’t want to find myself in the middle of all of the inevitable Team Heinz, or possibly Team Mister Rogers Neighborhood (talk about a cool new name for Heinz Field), vs. Team Progress debates. And I certainly don’t want to be involved in any of the Team Taxpayers vs. Team I’ll Pay Any Amount of Taxes to Keep My Steelers Here, Old Man! arguments.
Also, if/when a new football stadium does get built, this will no doubt lead to a debate about whether or not Heinz Field, or possibly UPMC Field (better known as the Triage Center whenever the defense is getting after it), should be preserved in the name of nostalgia.
Of course, that wouldn't be possible in a city the size of Pittsburgh, which would ultimately lead to an implosion of Heinz Field, or possibly The Dark Knight Rises Man Cave, followed by tears from grown men wearing black-and-gold face paint.
Nobody wants to see that.
This brings me back to the original point of this article. I went to Heinz Field last summer for Steelers training camp and again in the fall for a Pitt football game.
The place seemed nice and well-kept. I don’t recall any weird smells in the air or troublesome cracks in the foundation.
I’ll end this article by asking you, Mr./Mrs./Miss Season-Ticket Holder. You go to Heinz Field much more than I do. Can you really say it’s a dump?