Clearly, Pittsburgh is a sports town. It is nearly impossible to walk one city block without seeing at least one jersey or sport-themed shirt, and you’ll be forgiven if you feel like you’ve developed some kind of black-and-gold-centric color blindness by the time you leave. Hey, we don’t call ourselves the “City of Champions” for nothing. As such, there are plenty of sports-related things to explore while you’re in town.
The obvious place to start is with the big three sports teams: The Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins. With any luck, all three will be in action in mid-October: The Pirates enjoying playoff baseball in the incomparable PNC Park (which we will be lucky enough to tour Saturday evening); the Steelers taking on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field; while the Pens come back to Consol Energy Center for three home games during the conference. While ticket prices may be prohibitive, the circus atmosphere surrounding the venues during these events is a thing to behold.
In addition to our tour of PNC Park, intrepid attendees can also tour Heinz Field and the Consol Energy Center, albeit during somewhat limited timeframes. While PNC Park is clearly the jewel of the bunch, and Consol the most convenient to access, the history of the Steelers and the majesty of The Great Hall make Heinz Field a one-of-a-kind experience in its own right. Walk up tours are available, but only on Friday between 10AM to noon.
One place to take in the festivities on game days Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36, located between PNC Park and Heinz Field. The former Steelers running back and recent inductee into the pro football hall of fame opened this high-end sports bar in 2007 and it has been a mainstay on the North Shore ever since.
During Pirates games, the city closes the Roberto Clemente Bridge to cars and allows fans to walk to the ballpark from Downtown. The atmosphere outside of PNC Park has become carnivalesque in recent years due to the Pirates success, with thousands of fans flooding onto Federal Street hours before the first pitch. If playoff baseball is indeed in the cards for mid-October, the environment will be feverish. There are plenty of sports bars nearby (including the incredible Beer Market), so even without a ticket the experience should be a memorable one.
Folks with an appreciation of the historical or scientific context of sports in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area have three distinct sports museums to choose from. The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in the Strip District is part of the Heinz History Center and is an exhaustive, interactive journey through centuries of sports in the area. The Highmark Sports Works at the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore is a hands-on exploration of the science involved in athletic competition. And a bit off the beaten track (and only available by appointment only), the Roberto Clemente Museum in Bloomfield offers an in depth look at the Dominican baseball icon and humanitarian.
Golfers will be happy to know that there is a public course in town that is easily accessible for conference attendees. The Bob O’Connor Golf Course is located in Squirrel Hill, nestled in the expansive Schenley Park, near both the Pitt and Carnegie Mellon campuses. Most other courses are outside city limits and probably not accessible to those without an automobile.
Schenley Park is also home to several public courts if tennis is more your thing. For true aficionados, however, the clay courts in the Regent Square area of Frick Park are a rare treat and should be open for play, weather permitting.