(If you missed Part I, I highly encourage you to read it before continuing with this.)
I want to tell you the story of a college football program.
This program has had success through the years (nine championships), but fortunes are not as good as they once were. Fans remember the good ol’ days — successful seasons at the stadium on campus. Sure, it was too big and past its time, but the best times the program ever had were when they played there. But the university had to tear it down to make room for new buildings, and who needs a big football stadium on an urban campus anyway?
So the team moved to an NFL stadium. Of course, it’s a grand venue. Better than most schools in the conference have. But the atmosphere is lacking. College fans can’t fill up all those seats. So while it is nice to have NFL facilities, some fans see this team (right in a football-lovin’ region) and think, “wouldn’t this all look better if we were back on campus in a smaller stadium?”
The school put plans in motion for a new stadium on campus. Of course, it is a crowded area. Neighbors of the university were rightly concerned: How will you deal with the traffic and noise? Where will everyone park? Aren’t you already playing in a perfectly good stadium? Why is this necessary?
The neighbors’ qualms were taken into account, and the university offered new plans to address those traffic, parking and noise issues. And the stadium looks great! It is compact and fans get great sightlines close to the field. Did it solve the team’s attendance problem? No. Only winning will do that. But nowadays, 27,000 fans look better when they fill 90% of the seats instead of 33%.
That is the story, so far, of Tulane University football.
I will grant you: Tulane’s story is not identical to Pitt’s story.
Those nine championships? Conference championships, not national ones.The attendance struggles? Caused by being a laughingstock, not just a disappointment (think four bowl appearances in the last 30 years). And Tulane certainly is playing in a less-renowned conference now; they would never need 70,000 seats unless they were playing LSU.
Most of the facts about Tulane and Pitt, however, are congruent. If you don’t believe me, go back and read the story again. Tell me how Pitt is that much different.
So with that story in mind, I present my site proposal for New Pitt Stadium.
In the heart of Oakland, there is space for a football stadium that suits Pitt’s needs.
The stadium site would be bound by Bigelow Boulevard to the west, Tennyson Avenue to the northeast, Alumni Hall and the Pittsburgh Athletic Association (on Fifth Avenue) to the southeast.
What’s there now? A parking lot, the Wyndham Hotel and the three-story UPMC University Center. That’s it. Pitt could construct its stadium by building over the end of Lytton Avenue and tearing down only those two older buildings.
New Pitt Stadium would stand directly against Alumni Hall to the east. The main structure in the way? The historic Pittsburgh Athletic Association building on Fifth Avenue. My idea would be for the University to purchase the building and retrofit it as a hospitality space for donors, boosters and premium ticket holders (plus athletic facilities and locker rooms, naturally).
Here are the main details:
- Total seating capacity: 41,000 seats
- Southwest Stands: 13,500
- Lower Northeast Stand: 14,500
- Upper Northeast Stand: 10,000
- Southeast End: 3,000
- Stadium Site: 6.1 acres
- Estimated Cost: $120 million
New academic and student life facilities can be built into the northeast and southwest stands, available to students throughout the week. After all, the site is right next to Soldiers & Sailors, Crawford Hall, Langley Hall, Clapp Hall and the Cathedral of Learning. It’s not the center of campus, but it is pretty darn close.
And just as every problem can be an opportunity, here’s one: there is not enough space to have stands behind the north endzone. The opportunity? Open up the field to the Oakland community. Close Bigelow Boulevard to traffic on game days, of course, but then have the FieldTurf field open up for intramural sports and general green space. It could be a unique idea in modern college stadiums.
You can read more in Part III, including traffic and parking logistics. But for now, imagine this view from the western edge of new Pitt Stadium, which I took a picture of this afternoon.
Now tell me: does this not scream University of Pittsburgh?