Winter Classic Travel Advice: Get to Know Heinz Field
There's a good chance that many of the ticket holders for Saturday's Winter Classic have never been to Heinz Field (Capitals fans, general hockey fans just making the trip for this game; basically anybody that's not from Pittsburgh, and perhaps even some people that are). With that in mind, and since I'm a Steelers season ticket holder that's been going to the stadium for a decade now, I thought it would be worth pointing out a few things to look for and watch out for if you're making your first trip to the big ketchup bottle.
You Have A Bleacher... If your ticket is in the upper deck of the north end zone (sections 518-527). Even though they're bleachers they do have backs and they do have cup holders (connected to the back of the bleacher in front of you), so that's nice. The issue, of course, is making sure you keep track of your ass space and don't lose it throughout the course of the game. You also have to watch out for that one person in your row that thinks because it's a bleacher he can invite his buddy up from another section to sit with him, further cramping the row (and I'd bet money that somewhere, somebody on Saturday will try this, because it happens during every Steelers game, and I know, because my seats are in the bleachers.)
Concourses Can Get Cramped: This could be a problem if the weather forces a delay either before or during the game, and also during the two intermissions. Halftime at a Steeler game can tend to be -- and I don't mean to alarm you -- complete anarchy. Why? Mainly because some of the concourses (particularly the one in the upper deck of the North End Zone, as well as the concourses along the upper decks on the sides) aren't as wide as you would expect for a fairly new stadium. If the game is delayed and people attempt to get out of the rain? Well, all bets are off. This happened earlier this year during a Steelers preseason game. The game was stopped due to lightning in the area, while fans were asked to leave the seating areas and head for the concourses. The crowd was about 10,000 below capacity (65,000) and many people were leaving early. Even with the smaller crowd and steady stream of people leaving, it was still like the thunderdome in there with a wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder mass of humanity.
Hungry? Eat Before (Or After) The Game: The menu at Heinz Field tends to be your typical stadium fare: Hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers, beer, pop (local dialect: Perhaps you prefer Soda). That said, even for stadium fare the quality tends to be on the low side. I can't imagine it would be that different (or improved) for this game. The only unique food stands are located in the Great Hall area on the lower level and include a Primanti Brothers, Benkovitz Fish Sandwiches and a Quaker Steak and Lube (wings). If you want to eat a sandwich with meat, cheese, cole slaw, french fries and tomatoes, my advice would be to go to the original one in Pittsburgh's Strip District and avoid the one at the stadium (which has a significantly smaller selection and is far lower quality: same can be said for the Quaker Steak and Lube ... go to one of the restaurants if you want their wings). The good news, however, is that Pittsburgh's North Side (where Heinz Field is located) has a wide selection of bars and restaurants for pre-and-post game eating, and you're not only going to get better quality food, you'll also get more bang for your buck.
Here's a rundown of some of the local eateries and watering holes [North Shore Bars And Restaurants].
There's also a casino if you're into that sort of thing [The Rivers Casino].
Sight Lines Should Be OK: There shouldn't be many -- if any -- issues with obstructed views. The biggest issue might be actually seeing the puck from a great distance if you're sitting near the top of the upper decks. That said, the seats at Heinz Field are quite close to the field and have a decent incline that sight lines shouldn't be much of a problem. Actually, if you're in the first 15-20 rows of the upper deck, or the top 15-20 rows of the lower level, you might have the best views of the ice in the stadium.
Not Many Seats Under Cover: Another possible downside if it rains: the majority of the seats at Heinz Field are exposed to the elements. The two upper decks along the sides each have a roof that covers, perhaps, the top 20 rows of each upper deck, while the top few rows of the lower level are under the cover of the upper decks. Other than that? You're going to get wet if it rains (or snows).
Be Patient When Leaving: If you're sitting in any of the three upper decks (North, East, West) it may take a few minutes to get out because the escalators and ramps tend to bottleneck near the bottom, creating quite a backlog of people.
Parking: There are several parking garages located throughout downtown Pittsburgh (my personal choice) that are very affordable. Be warned, however: Depending on where you park in town you're looking at walk that could be as long as a mile. The time you lose walking, however, is more than made up for in terms of actually being able to get out of the lot and garage. Others prefer to park on Pittsburgh's South Side at Station Square and ride the Gateway Clipper across the river.
VisitPittsburgh outlines all of the options and provides schedules for buses and boats, and also offers directions to and from all locations.