Shoeless Joe Jackson: “Is this heaven?”
Ray Kinsella: “No…it’s Pittsburgh”
OK, so that last part might be made up. But that most certainly would have been the quote if Field of Dreams was reimagined as a soccer movie.
Set right alongside the Ohio River across from downtown Pittsburgh, Highmark Stadium offers one of the most beautiful backdrops for a soccer match in all of the U.S.
Upon entering the stadium, fans are greeted to expansive views of the Pittsburgh skyline. Look right, and you can see the famous Steel Tower and castle-esque One PPG Place. Look left, and you have the bright yellow Fort Pitt Bridge serving as the backdrop for every goal scored at the west end.
Since 2013, Highmark Stadium has served as the home stadium for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and is must-visit venue for anyone thinking about their next away day destination. And the view is only half of what makes a Pittsburgh Riverhounds match so unique.
As one of the most storied sports towns in America, Pittsburgh has some of the best fan culture around, with traditions that cut across each team in the region. Locals, or Yinzers as they affectionately call themselves, take pride in the connection between sports and community. Pittsburgh is the only city in the country where all of its sports teams share the same colors, and that black and yellow pride is evident everywhere you go.
Just as you’ll see Steelers fans tailgating long before kickoff at Heinz Field, the same goes for the thousands that come to Highmark Stadium to watch the Riverhounds play.
Starting at least three hours before kickoff (or more for big games), the first set of Steel Army supporters and Riverhounds fans begin streaming into the west end parking lot. Within minutes, they have tents set up and hotdogs on the grills. As each new car pulls up, the event feels more and more like a family reunion.
“We get 16 homes games each year and we want to make the most out of every one,” shared Steel Army board member Dan Yost. “Many of us are busy with work and family, and especially after the pandemic last year, these games are one of the few opportunities we get to spend time with one another. Everyone looks forward to these games and our tailgates.”
That’s why, even on one of the hottest days of the year this past Saturday, the Pittsburgh soccer community came out in full force to watch the team take on Miami FC on June 12. Albeit with a little extra sunscreen in tow.
As the tailgate grew, young fans played a small game of rondo while pausing for the occasional snack. Current Steel Army president Josh Brokaw manned the grill and offered food to anyone that came by. And founding board member Maria Petrillo walked around handing out her famous jello shots and catching up with everyone that was there.
It’s exactly what you would expect from a backyard get together among your closest friends.
No matter if you are a longtime member of the Steel Army or if it’s your first time at a Riverhounds match, to the Steel Army supporters, you are family.
That same sense of community and energy also transfers into the stadium when the Riverhounds take the field. From minute one to minute 90, the supporters section at the east end of the stadium is rocking.
If standing and singing isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry. Highmark Stadium has plenty of other options for fans. If you want to be right on top of the action, head over to seats across from the main stand where fans are almost close enough to reach out and touch the players as they run by. If you prefer to socialize with friends while watching the game, there’s an actual pub inside the stadium where you can grab a drink a few feet away from the pitch.
Altogether, Highmark Stadium offers one of the best experiences in the USL Championship.
Even after the final whistle, Pittsburgh Riverhounds supporters give you reason to stay. Instead of heading for the exits, hundreds or fans stick around to congratulate the players and thank them for all their work.
“We are all part of one big community here and it’s important that we demonstrate that every chance we get,” shared Maria. “That’s why we started the Steel Army. Many of the players and supporters volunteer and coach together in the community, so we want them to know we appreciate everything they do, no matter the result.”