The Pittsburgh Playbook: 21 “Home Runs” that Have Re-made the Region Since 1992 When the Pirates Last Made the Playoffs

PITTSBURGH – Civic leaders in Pittsburgh are cheering on the Pittsburgh Pirates in their quest for their first playoff berth since their last appearance in the playoffs in 1992. Today, Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and VisitPittsburgh gathered at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at Pittsburgh’s Senator John Heinz History Center to share a regional “scorecard,” noting the 21 “home runs” – not coincidentally the magic number of the legendary Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente – that have put Pittsburgh back in the global game over the past 21 years.

“Pittsburgh’s been re-imagined and re-made over the past two decades. While the Pirates were building a winning team on the field, government, business, the non-profit sector and community leaders used their own winning team to transform our region,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Today our region is known as a leader in energy, healthcare, higher education, finance, technology, manufacturing and innovation.”

“The $7.7 billion-plus investment in our urban core and parks and trails along our rivers, make Pittsburgh unrecognizable to Pirates fans who turned out for the National League Playoffs at Three Rivers Stadium in 1992,” said City of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. “Three Rivers Stadium is long gone, but we’ve reclaimed the banks of all three rivers for parks and green spaces, entertainment venues, corporate centers, residences and recreation.”

“Pittsburgh’s built a new economy over the past 21 years,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, one of the U.S.’s premier civic leadership organizations and the entity credited for catalyzing Pittsburgh’s environmental and economic transformation.  “We remain a global center of materials science, energy and finance, and we’ve added world-class strengths in healthcare and information technology. Our economy and our population are growing, and so is our optimism about the future.”

“The world’s finding out about Pittsburgh. Eleven million people a year are visiting from all around the world,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh. “In the past 21 years, we’ve increased our hotel capacity by 50 percent, yet we still have one of the highest occupancy rates of any major metro in the country.”

It’s all the result of a collaborative community playbook. 

Here are five big plays – and the 21 “home runs” – that have put Pittsburgh back in the global game. 

The City of Champions – Again! 

Pittsburgh’s a sports town, with three million fans turning out annually for professional sports events.  Monday Night Football announcer Howard Cosell first coined the term, “City of Champions” in the early ’80s, after the Pittsburgh Steelers won their first Super Bowl and the Pirates their second World Series in the ’70s.  Over the past 20 years the sports scene has gotten even better, especially with the recent success of the Pirates. 


Since the 1992 National League Playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers have made four trips to the Super Bowl, bringing home two Lombardi trophies, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have brought home the Stanley Cup three times.

Pittsburgh’s hosted major national sporting events, including the Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open Golf Tournament (twice for men’s tournament); the MLB All Star Game (also twice); and the NHL Winter Classic; and the NCAA’s Frozen Four – to name a few.

The Bassmaster Classic bass fishing tournament came to town in 2005, drawing national attention to the reclamation of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, which are now home to not only bass, but walleye, catfish, sauger, and mayflies – a long-time harbinger of good water quality. 

Investing in a Thriving Urban Core 

While other downtowns declined or even decayed, Pittsburgh’s central business district has continued to thrive, benefiting from more than $7 billion in investment. 


Five new major league sports venues were built:  PNC Park, Heinz Field, CONSOL Energy Center, plus nearby Peterson Events Center on the University of Pittsburgh campus and Highmark Stadium at Station Square.

The North Shore is redeveloped, featuring new corporate centers for Alcoa, Del Monte, Starkist and Peoples Gas, in addition to the major league football and baseball stadiums.

Pennsylvania’s only urban state park, Point State Park, is restored – a $41 million investment, the largest in a state park in Pennsylvania’s history.  The project also restored the iconic fountain at The Point – the original “Gateway to the West.” 

“Green to the Core” –  In 2000, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group opened its PNC Firstside Service Center, the largest building and the first financial institution in the U.S. to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.  Since added to downtown’s roster of green real estate are Three PNC Plaza and the Fairmont Hotel, and under construction is The Tower at PNC Plaza, to open in 2015 as the world’s greenest skyrise. 

“Earth to Pittsburgh” – The Pittsburgh Summit 2009 brought the leaders of the Group of 20 nations to town, along with thousands of journalists from around the world, collectively changing global perceptions about Pittsburgh.

Greening an Old Industrial Town 

It’s shades of green, not gray in Pittsburgh, where there are more than 80 LEED-certified “green” buildings within city limits, including 10 of the world’s first green buildings, plus some 40 others across the 10-county Pittsburgh region.   


The David L. Lawrence Convention Center opened in 2003 as the world’s largest green building.  Today, it’s the only LEED Platinum convention center and the world’s first to achieve a LEED certification for both design and construction and for operations and maintenance.  Also in downtown, CONSOL Energy Center opened in 2010 as the first NHL arena to achieve LEED Gold certification.

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory was completed in 2012 – one of the few Living Buildings on Earth, creating its own energy and treating/re-using its wastewater – while Chatham University broke ground on the world’s first from-the-ground-up sustainable university campus. 

More than 4,000 acres of brownfields have been redeveloped, including Summerset at Frick Park, Washington’s Landing, The Waterfront and South Side Works – the latter two being the former sites of major Pittsburgh-based steel producers – U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works and Jones and Laughlin, respectively.

The Great Allegheny Passage was completed in June 2013 – linking Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. via a 335-mile “no cars allowed” bike/hike trail.

Pittsburgh’s reclaimed rivers are now this Water Belt city’s “front yard.” Since 2000, Riverlife has been leading the construction of Three Rivers Park, a 13-mile interconnected loop of riverfront trails, parks and amenities, with an investment in excess of $2.5 billion since 1999.  More than 80 percent of the project is complete.

Investing in Arts and Culture to Enliven and Enrich a Place 

Pittsburgh’s civic, corporate and foundation leaders directed that deliberate investments be made in arts and cultural assets. A dilapidated 14-square block area was revitalized to become a cultural district with seven theaters – considered one of the best theater districts outside of New York City.   


New museums and performing arts venues opened including The Andy Warhol Museum in 1994 – the largest museum in the U.S. dedicated to a single artist:  the King of Pop Art and a native son; the

Senator John Heinz History Center in 1996, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the largest history museum in Pennsylvania and devoted the region’s rich heritage and history; the August Wilson  

Center for African American Culture in 2009; and the Toonseum in 2007, one of only three cartoon museums in the country.

The Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) school moved to its downtown location at the beginning of the 2003-04 school year.  In the hub of Pittsburgh’s cultural district, students study their craft and collaborate with artists from all over Pittsburgh amid amenities including a 400-seat auditorium, black box theater, art gallery, television studio and computer labs.


In 1994, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican for the late Pope John Paul II’s Silver Jubilee celebration, underscoring its artistic excellence as one of the world’s elite orchestras. 


Generating Wealth and Opportunity by Building on Traditional Industries and Creating New Ones 


Pittsburgh invested in people and technology to build a diverse economy, retooling traditional industries and commercializing innovation pouring out of its universities and health care systems over the last 20 years. 


The region’s total employment is up from 1,183,700 in 1992 to 1,270,400 at the end of July 2013.  There are more people at work in the region now than at the height of the steel industry.

Apple, Disney, Google, Intel, and Microsoft are among 1,600 tech firms generating $11 billion in annual Pittsburgh payrolls.  Pittsburgh is the only place in the world where all five of these tech giants have R&D operations. 

Google strategically opened a full-blown R&D center in 2010 in Bakery Square, a redeveloped brownfield in Pittsburgh’s East End, where 350 people are now employed, with future expansions anticipated.

Pittsburgh earned the title of America's "most livable city" by Places Rated Almanac, Forbes, and The Economist while inspiring National Geographic Traveler in 2012 to name the city a “best of the world, must-see” destination.

Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) opened on Oct. 1, 1992. PIT provides 155 non-stop flights daily to 37 destinations via 12 commercial air carriers. In 2009, nonstop transatlantic service returned to the region via Delta Air Lines and Air France, the latter offering connections from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport to 100 cities in Europe and beyond. JD Power and Associates and Condé NastTraveler magazine have named PIT among the top airports for customer satisfaction.