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Remembering Three Rivers Stadium, Feb. 11, 2001

It was a snowy day in Central Pennsylvania when my wife and I, along with a friend of ours set out on a day trip to Pittsburgh.  I remember it like it was yesterday; tired as all get out from a long day of work but we were determined to arrive in Pittsburgh in time to see good ole Three Rivers Stadium be torn down to give way to then still under construction, Heinz Field.  Mile after mile we headed up the Pennsylvania Turnpike, taking turns driving because we could barely keep our eyes open. Granted it’s only a 3.5 hour drive normally but when you’re tired it seems like an eternity. We arrived in Pittsburgh about 5:30am, a longer trip than normal due to the weather conditions. After stopping off for some breakfast in Monroeville we headed downtown to witness the last few minutes of such an iconic establishment in sports history.

Since it’s opening on  July 16, 1970, TRS was home to the Steelers and bared witness to 4 Super Bowl Championship teams, and great plays such as the Immaculate Reception.  There was something magical about Three Rivers that made it special. Sometimes nicknamed “the big ash tray”  due to it’s design, it held many memories for Steelers players and fans who entered it’s gates on Sunday afternoons.  It wasn’t the most palatial of venues for an NFL team by any stretch, but it symbolized a city and it’s beloved team much like Heinz Field does now.  Funneling the noise from the 59,000 dedicated fans that filled the seats on gameday, it was a sight and sound to behold and memory to keep forever for anyone that ever waived a Terrible Towel there.  We could go on and on about all the great games that were played and all the Hall of Fame players and Coaches who entertained us over the years.  Suffice it to say that all Steeler fans who had the privilege to attend an event in TRS will hold onto those memories forever.

We somehow found a parking space on a side street not too far from the Point, and made our way through the crowd to get as close as we could to the edge of the water.  I was determined to get a few lasting pictures before it came tumbling down.  We made it to a good spot by about 7:30am, 30 minutes to spare.  The crowd was bustling as people were talking about games they had attended, plays they remember, and tailgates with fellow fans.  Some were thinking of how they could sneak over later that week to grab a piece of the rubble that would soon be all too plentiful.  Others were talking about what Heinz Field would be like on opening day.  The conversations were plenty and by this time the 6 coffee’s we had consumed along with a  healthy dose of adrenaline were finally kicking in.  As the last minutes were ticking off the clock the crowd started to cheer and wave their Terrible Towels, waving goodbye to a Pittsburgh icon that stood for over 30 years.  As the stadium began to come down,  tears were shed, cheers were heard, and Three Rivers Stadium had finally given way to the future.

The excitement of that day gave us more than enough energy for the trip home, which by the way we headed for as soon as it was over.  4.5 hours driving each way for about 30 seconds of visual stimulus; but you know…I’d do it all over again.

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