ON THIS DAY: April 13, 2013, Highmark Stadium opens, becomes new home of Riverhounds

PITTSBURGH — Highmark Stadium opened in Station Square on April 13, 2013, featuring an elite field surface and stunning skyline backdrop. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds became the third United Soccer Leagues Pro Division team to have its own stadium.

The stadium’s $10.2 million construction cost was fully funded by private investment, most notably from sponsors Highmark, Trib Total Media and #1 Cochran. Highmark purchased the naming rights.

Designed by TDA Architecture, Highmark Stadium opened with 3,500 seats and features a hybrid-turf surface that received top marks from international governing body FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). The stadium is designed to be expandable up to 18,500 seats.

Stands on the east end of the field are home to a rowdy pack of supporters called the Steel Army. There are also luxury suites above a full-service bar and restaurant on the west end of the field. The team’s headquarters are also located in the structure.

Lest there be any doubt who has the home field advantage, the seats are color-coordinated to spell out “HOUNDS” in giant letters across six sections.

The Riverhounds’ stadium has been praised for its dramatic location across the Monongahela River from downtown. British documentary filmmaker Benjamin Zand said “they have what is probably the most beautiful stadium I’ve ever seen.”

Since the Riverhounds’ inaugural season in 1999, the team had been without a permanent home. Games were at borrowed facilities like the Chartiers Valley High School and on the baseball field of the Washington Wild Things minor league team at CONSOL Energy Park.

When original plans to site the Rivers Casino in Station Square fell through, the Riverhounds’ front office seized the opportunity to place their new home field at the base of the Fort Pitt Bridge with the dramatic skyline of Pittsburgh just across the river.

The team opened its first home season at Highmark Stadium against its in-state rival, the Harrisburg City Islanders. The sellout crowd was disappointed after the Islanders scored a 2-1 winning goal in the game’s 90th minute.

Stadium construction costs pushed the Riverhounds to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2014, but the team was reorganized before the end of that year.

As attendance grew at Highmark Stadium, so did the Riverhounds’ aspirations. While becoming a Major League Soccer team has always been a long-term goal, the team needed to add seating capacity to move up to USL Division 2 status (USL Championship). For the 2018 season, Highmark Stadium added 1,000 seats to meet those requirements.

In 2019, the team set new attendance records and won the Eastern Conference title.

Highmark Stadium is also the home of the Pittsburgh Passion Women’s Football Team and has been transformed into an ice rink for open skates, high school games and alumni games for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The stadium also hosts musical acts as a concert venue and can hold between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators in that configuration.