University of Pittsburgh
March 16, 1999


Contact:  412-624-4147

What, specifically, is the University considering doing?

In a nutshell, the University is considering moving its home football games from antiquated Pitt Stadium to the new state-of-the-art facility that will be built soon on Pittsburgh's North Shore. If the details of such a move can be worked out, the University would like to use the ten-acre stadium site for its planned Convocation Center, additional student housing, and green space. Locating the Convocation Center on the roomier stadium site would permit it to also include a large student recreation and fitness center and other amenities.

Why think about this now?

The simple answer is that… opportunity knocked, and the University listened. The option of a stadium move was only made possible by the Commonwealth's decision in February to fund construction of new stadiums for the Steelers and Pirates. That decision created a rare opportunity for the University to accelerate its progress dramatically on a number of fronts.

What would be the benefits of the stadium move?

The move would produce numerous benefits in two broad categories. Specifically, it would allow the University to enhance campus life and at the same time to strengthen the athletic program.

How would student life benefit?

In five ways. First, students have consistently identified the need for a recreation and fitness center as one of their top priorities. If the University could locate the Convocation Center on the stadium site, it could include such a state-of-the-art facility. Second, the stadium site could be used to provide additional student housing, possibly similar to the garden apartments now under construction on Bouquet Street. Third, the rest of the site could be used as green space. A more traditional campus setting, with lawn and trees, has been another top student priority. Fourth, locating the Convocation Center closer to the heart of campus would make events more accessible. And fifth, with its central location, a park-like setting, and a recreation and fitness center, the stadium site could become a welcome new hub of campus life – right in the heart of Oakland.

What are the advantages to the athletic program?

Here again, the stadium move would produce several benefits. First and most obviously, it would strengthen the football program. The University already has a strong coach and, with UPMC, will soon have a first-class training and practice facility on Pittsburgh's South Side. Those assets, combined with the opportunity to play in a world-class stadium, would increase our ability to recruit top athletes. Great facilities are the key to attracting the country's best recruits, and creating a consistently successful football program that will bring pride to students, alumni and the public. Playing in the best football stadium in the country will lead to higher game attendance at home games, which will bring more revenue to invest back into the entire athletic program.

What will be the impact on the region?

We believe that merchants in the Oakland area would gain from having a steady stream of potential customers coming into the neighborhood. Unlike the football stadium, which hosts only six football games a year, the Convocation Center would host over 50 University-sponsored events each year. And we think the region would gain in four important ways. First, it would enjoy greater use of a regional asset – namely, its new stadium. Second, it would benefit from the energy that will result from combining two great football traditions in one of America's best football towns. Third, it would benefit from yet another signal that Pittsburgh is on the move again, filled with a spirit of collaboration and excellence. Fourth, it would gain from an opportunity to strengthen its bonds with our students. In the modern economy, young people like our students are the lifeblood of a region's strength. Giving them broader exposure to our region, extending our commitment to "the city as our campus" in this way, will increase their likelihood they will want to stay here after they graduate.

But couldn't Pitt Stadium be renovated?

Of course, but only at a cost running well into the tens of millions of dollars. Furthermore, this debt would have to be financed, which would mean a substantial debt service for the University. Most significantly, the result would still be a less competitive facility hampered by parking, traffic and access problems and less attractive to potential student-athletes, spectators and fans.

Why would it be so expensive to renovate Pitt Stadium?

Although much loved by generations of alumni and students, Pitt Stadium, at 75 years of age, has never been in greater need of repair. Among the necessary renovations would be replacing the playing surface, replacing and expanding the press boxes, building luxury boxes, expanding the concession stands, expanding and renovating the restrooms, and installing seats with backs. Because of the age of the stadium, seemingly simple renovations are extremely expensive. For example, replacing bleachers with seats sounds simple, but the poured concrete rows are not deep enough to accommodate the change. As a result, the entire inside of the stadium would need to be reconfigured.

Why couldn't the Convocation Center be built where it was originally planned, replacing the OC lot?

The Convocation Center still could be built on the originally planned site, but given the availability of the new stadium on the North Side, the university no longer considers that the wisest use of its limited space. In addition to the opportunities that would be lost, building the Center on the original site would require the elimination of the "OC" parking lot, which would aggravate the perceived parking problems in the neighborhood. (At a construction cost of $10,000 to $12,000 per space, underground parking is not an option.) The hilltop location is not large enough to include space for an expanded recreation center. Furthermore, constructing the Convocation Center while Pitt Stadium remains standing would create a very tight space during the construction and thus add considerably to the cost.

What sort of input have students had into the development of this proposal?

The ideas for alternative use of the stadium site are based on priorities that students have set in previous discussions and surveys. The desirability of a recreation and fitness center, the creation of a more traditional campus setting, and more student housing directly reflect student input that has been given to the University over the past six years. Specifically, most of the needs that would be addressed by the new proposal were identified when the University developed its ten-year facilities plan in 1997. In developing that plan, the University solicited the input of a wide range of constituencies, including students, alumni, faculty and the Oakland community. When this opportunity became a realistic option with the legislature's approval of stadium funding in February, we drew on this existing data for the conceptual discussions with our architects. As we have done in the past, the University will solicit student participation as we move through the final design process and programmatic decisions.

If the plan to demolish Pitt Stadium becomes a reality, when will it begin? Will this mean the team will have to play in Three Rivers Stadium until the new stadium is complete?

Demolition of Pitt Stadium would begin following the 1999 season,and construction of the new facility shortly thereafter. In the fall of 2000, the Panthers would play at Three Rivers Stadium. We expect that new stadium would be ready for use by both the Steelers and the Panthers in September 2001.

What would the University do in 25 to 30 years, when the North Side stadium needs to be renovated? Will there be a financial obligation on the part of the university?

Any answer to this type of question is probably premature at this point. Consideration of future issues such as these will be a part of the University's planning process as we move forward.

What happens to the great traditions of Pitt football if the University follows this course?

They continue. And if anything, they get better. Those traditions run deeper than a mere stadium. They have to do with pride in our University and its team. They have to do with the thrill of the game, and of being a contender. They have to do with the fun and the spectacle of watching the game with throngs of other excited fans. We will always have fond memories of the experiences at Pitt Stadium, and we respect their place in our University's history and our culture. We need to recognize the needs and aspirations of our present and future students, whose own experiences will add to our rich traditions and past glories. We believe that the game day experience of watching Pitt football in the best stadium in the country will be unique and exciting, and will bring a new and special enthusiasm to the University. We believe it is also important to consider the new on-campus traditions that will arise from the plan for the stadium site. With its combination of the Convocation Center, recreation and fitness facilities, student housing, and plenty of green space for socializing, the Upper campus will become a focused center of high quality student life, and new tradition-building memories.

Pitt Stadium is our home. Why do we want to play football on someone else's field?

The Steelers organization has indicated specifically that when we play in that stadium it will be very identifiable as our "home." Dan Rooney has confirmed this repeatedly in the media. "For example," he said recently, "One end zone would be painted with `Pittsburgh' while the other end zone might change from `Panthers' to "Steelers' for each team's home games. The grass field will easily handle games on the same weekend - Saturday for Pitt, and Sunday for the Steelers." This won't be "someone else's field" - it will be our field, home to two of the greatest football traditions in the country.