Clem's Baseball home

Three Rivers Stadium
Former home of the
Pittsburgh Pirates

Three Rivers Stadium

Mouse rollover.

baseball: 1970 baseball: 1975 upper deck middle deck(s) lower deck combined (no roof) football
Forbes Field PNC Park
The vicinity
Key to diagrams

Vital statistics and ratings:
Lifetime Seating capacity

Seating rows
Overhang / shade % Territory
(1,000 sq. ft.)
Fence height  CF
orien- tation
Back-stop Outfield dimensions The Clem Criteria:
Built Demo-
1st deck 2nd deck Upper deck Lower deck Upper deck Fair Foul LF CF RF Left
Left-center Center field Right-center Right field Field
asym- metry
prox- imity
Loc- ation Aesth- etics Over- all
1970 2001 58,727
(50) 8 29 15% 50% 111.8 27.3 10 10 10 SE 60 335 375 400 375 335 2 4 4 8 5 4.6

ALL STAR GAMES: 1974, 1994 ARTIFICIAL TURF: 1970-2000 (always)

WORLD SERIES: 1971, 1979

BEEN THERE: I saw Three Rivers Stadium from a distance in 1986, and I saw it up close in August 2000, just five months before it was demolished.

It was probably inevitable that the Pirates would eventually abandon funky old Forbes Field, but the tragedy was compounded in 1970 when they went along with prevailing fashion by building a boring generic "doughnut" stadium as part of a deal with the Steelers football team. The first baseball game was on July 16, just a few weeks after its cloned sibling opened in Cincinnati, 300 miles down the Ohio River. There were a few distinguishing traits worth mentioning, however. The bullpens were located in the right and left field corners, similar to San Diego Stadium, except that Three Rivers Stadium used the the "paired swivelable circular section lower deck" (PSCSLD) configuration. Making room for the bullpens in the corners necessitated two modifications: the extremities of the movable portions of the lower decks were truncated, and the left and right wings of the lower decks were oriented toward each other in a wider angle than at Riverfront Stadium or the other PSCSLD "clones." The dugouts were unusually close to each other, connected by a covered ground-level seating area like in the original seating configuration of Dodger Stadium. Another way in which Three Rivers Stadium stood out among the other stadiums of its genre was its slightly elliptical shape, like Busch Stadium II (St. Louis); Olympic Stadium (Montreal) is obviously oval in shape, and Rogers Centre (ex-Skydome) is a slightly "flattened" oval.

Another difference from Riverfront Stadium was that there were two mezzanine levels, rather than one. In certain sections such as beyond right-center field, however, the two mezzanine levels were combined into one, with regular seats. The "Allegheny Club" on the first base side and other several glass-enclosed suites provided air-conditioned comfort for high-paying club members. As a consequence, the upper deck was 70+ feet above the ground, true "nosebleed" elevation.

thumbnail The one big positive aspect of Three Rivers Stadium was its location at the scenic confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers, just across from the "tip" of downtown Pittsburgh. As with the Cincinnati Reds, the new stadium galvanized the Pirates, who were constant championship contenders during the 1970s, when they won six divisional titles and two World Series (1971 and 1979). Roberto Clemente was the Most Valuable Player on the former occasion, and in the following year he hit his 3,000th career hit on the last day of the 1972 season. Three months later, on New Year's Eve, this true hero died in a tragic plane crash en route to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

The other Pirate Hall-of-Famer from that era, Willie Stargell, is the only batter to have hit more than one home run into the very high upper deck at Three Rivers Stadium; he did that four times. The triumphant 1979 season is remembered for the "We Are Family" anthem that defined the spirited emergence of a New (post-industrial) Pittsburgh. Energized by rookie slugger Barry Bonds (!), the Pirates won three divisional titles again in the early 1990s, but failed to make it back to the World Series.

There was only one notable modification to the playing field during this stadium's history: in 1975 the outfield fence was brought in by ten feet to make room for additional seats in center field; the distances were reduced by five feet in each corner. In 1983, a new Diamond Vision scoreboard was installed in the upper deck of center field, occupying the top twelve rows. Large advertising billboards were put on the front edge of the roof right above that, the exterior side of which had time and temperature displays. (See Photo #2 below.) During the 1980s, the capacity grew by about 9,000 from the original figure of about 50,000, part of which was accomplished by adding more rows of seats in back of the 300 (orange in diagram above) and 400 (red in diagram above) mezzanine levels, from near the left foul pole to right-center field. In the latter years, four rows of seats were added between the dugouts, covering the warning track behind home plate. For baseball games, however, that was surplus capacity. Like other teams saddled with mostly-empty dual-use stadiums, in 1993 the Pirates covered most of the outfield upper-deck seating sections (and the upper parts of the sections near the foul poles) with a decorative tarp. Consequently, for the last few years of this famous stadium's history, the seating capacity for baseball games declined from about 59,000 to about 48,000. At about the same time the Pirates built a statue outside Three Rivers Stadium to commemorate their beloved hero and martyr, Roberto Clemente.

Three Rivers Stadium was not as well suited for football, ironically. Because of the small size of the movable portion of the lower deck and the absence of any retractable seating sections (virtually unique among dual-use stadiums), there were big gaps at the corners of the football field, putting fans far from the action. (At Riverfront Stadium, in contrast, retractable seating sections filled those gaps in the corners.) Small temporary bleachers were sometimes placed in the corners on the "infield" side for football games, but otherwise the capacity for baseball and football games was virtually the same. A few months after Three Rivers Stadium was demolished via explosives (in February 2001), the Steelers moved into brand-new Heinz Field next door.

SOURCES: Lowry (2006), Pastier (2007), Dow (2002) calendar, Gershman (1993), USA Today / Fodor's (1996),,

Three Rivers Stadium, far

camera #1 (click to see)
This view of Three Rivers Stadium from Mount Washington, about a mile away on the south side of downtown Pittsburgh, shows Point State Park where the Allegheny River (next to the stadium) joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River. You can see the top of Fort Pittsburgh Bridge (I-279) at the bottom. (May or June, 1986)

camera #2 (click to see)
This closeup view of Three Rivers Stadium also shows the Pittsburgh Steelers' football stadium (Heinz Field) under construction in back. (August 2000)

Three Rivers Stadium:
Chronology of diagram updates


NOTE: The diagram thumbnails have been continually replaced since 2008, so the images seen in the older blog posts do not reflect how the full-size diagrams looked at that time. Roll your mouse over the adjacent thumbnail to see a pre-2008 version.

Three Rivers Stadium
16 Sep 2005 30 May, 2005 16 Sep 2005 06 Jul 2009 09 Dec 2014 31 May 2019

Vox populi: Fans' impressions

Have you been to this stadium? If so, feel free to share your impressions of it with other fans! (Registration is required.) Also, I welcome submissions of original stadium photos that fans have taken, and will make sure they get properly credited. Just send me an e-mail message via the Contact page.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional

Copyright © Andrew G. Clem. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your agreement to the Terms of Use.