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They rant, they rhyme: It's awful, it's sublime

Sunday, August 05, 2001

By Lillian Thomas, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

"And what about those yellow seats?" the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked readers last Sunday in an invitation to comment on Heinz Field that accompanied articles about the Steelers' stadium.

Come Monday, the food similes were flying thicker than Heinz ketchup, as e-mails piled in, pillorying the place as "a large jar of Heinz Yellow Mustard," "Weenie World," and "a giant yellow mustard pit."

Post-Gazette graphic

"Can I have an order of fries to go with that cheeseburger? Which, by the way, I never ordered in the first place," wrote Steve Swingenstein of Mt. Lebanon.

Many readers commented at length -- and even in limericks -- about other aspects of the stadium, including its design, its placement, the metallic northern end that some have criticized as looking "cheap" or "unfinished," and the white cocktail umbrellas embellishing the walkway towers.

By Friday morning, more than 100 responses were in. Sixty-seven expressed pretty much unadulterated hatred for the place; 26 were in the positive column (ranging from wildly enthusiastic to "better than Three Rivers"); seven were mixed; two had ideas for modifying the stadium; and one chastised everyone who has ignored the Pitt Panthers in the discussions of Heinz Field.

The stadium had its staunch defenders.

"Sir," wrote Jane Clarke of Hampton. "I love the Steeler gold seats. Football is not a pansy purple game. It is an in-your-face game and the field should reflect that fact. If it is to be likened to a "Giant Dandelion," so be it! Dandelions are strong, sassy, and always come back, just the right description for a Steeler football team!"

Sandra Edwards of Indiana, Pa., reminded critics that "This is a football stadium ... not an art center" and said, "I LOVE the 'Steeler gold' seats! What other color could you imagine them to be? ... What a wonderful venue for all football fans to enjoy their favorite sport." To her credit, she included full disclosure in her closing when she identified herself as "Mother of Heidi Edwards, Steelers project manager."

Steelers spokesman Ron Wahl said the team has received "many favorable responses" about the color of the seats.

"They are Steelers gold," not yellow, he said. The color of the seats "coordinates well with the color of the building. Once fans are inside the building, they will see how well the seats brighten the stadium and the North Shore."

Several of the Post-Gazette's respondents agreed that color was great, either because it is the team color or just because they like it.

"Heinz Field will look great and be a real asset to Pittsburgh and the region," wrote Jim Kilzer of Mt. Lebanon. "We need to be bold to sell ourselves and this stadium is BOLD!"

Bernie Linner of Monongahela agreed. "I'm surprised to hear the negative comments about the new stadium's appearance and color. I think it looks GREAT. I think it was a brave and bold move to use Steelers' Gold as the seat color. An identity and home field advantage are always something you strive for, and there is now no way the opponent will forget where they are playing. Good work on the design and a great choice of color."

But the yellow loathers far outnumbered yellow lovers.

"The yellow seats provide the impression that the gray stadium has jaundice," wrote Tom Bates of McCandless. "I am sure that sometime in the near future, the stadium will be thought of as the liver by the river."

Nonnie Rizzo of Greenfield can't stand it, either. "It's not funny, this is our city, the color of the stadium seats is not yellow or gold. It defies description. The closest I've heard is the color of cheese curls! It's so loud and in such poor taste. Can anything be done? We in the city voted no to new stadiums twice. Now we have this, what my husband and I like to call The Pittsburgh Flytrap."

Sandra and Glenn Lasko of Whitehall needed poetry to get across their feelings.

Whenever we wanted to brag
To Mount Washington our guests we would drag
But now our delight
Has turned into fright
'Cause those bright yellow seats make us gag.

Many disliked other aspects of the stadium.

The northern end of the stadium and the umbrella-like caps to the walkway towers drew plenty of fire.

"Those flimsy white plastic umbrellas on the rotunda walkways do not belong there! They are constant reminders of a rainy day," said Joe Mell of McCandless.

"The Northern Section is embarrassing," said Jason Paschel of O'Hara. "I've never seen anything so ugly. Something really needs to be done over there. Second, who's the genius that decided to put those 'cocktail umbrellas' on top of the circular ramp towers? I've never witnessed anything so ridiculous before in my life."

The general design bothered several people.

"I get the impression that the 'field' looks like a giant crab claw that is about to engulf Point State Park and its surroundings," said Dick Kraft of Bethel Park.

"It is plopped onto the North Shore, at a strange angle, and then erupts into piercing structures of construction that stick out and ask to be refined," wrote Barry S. Pitek of Robinson. "Form follows function. I'm not talking PNC pretty here, just something that conveys a feeling, establishes a space and at the very least has one or two elements of welcome built into it. Yikes! This joint looks like it was imploded and no one removed the debris. ... Any chance to dome it?"

Several people used the word "cheap" to describe the way the stadium looks, or its tenants, or both.

"It is 57 varieties of CHEAP!" wrote Joe Mell of McCandless.

"The yellow seats are bad enough, but bleacher seats in a brand new stadium!!!!! Shame on you, Mr. Rooney!!!!! Cheap!! Cheap!!" said Maureen McChesney of Glenshaw.

The Post-Gazette got hit with the shrapnel, too.

"As it was one of the biggest proponents and apologists for selling out the city's soul to professional sports, it is a little late for the PG to be rationalizing and surveying the horrific ugly results," wrote a Murrysville woman. "I think the Downtown might as well go ahead and put up all the biggest ugliest signs they want to and complete the whole hideous transition."

Matt Wilson of Ross praised PNC Park on the North Shore, "Then ... we've got this hunk of steel, which looks from the one side like a giant parking garage, and on the other like the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard of Oz. The seat colors are tacky. Black would have done just fine. Who cares if it draws heat? Football season is played during the winter after all! Yellow seats do not make the stadium look 'tough,' 'colorful' or 'high-tech' or even 'vibrant.' All it does is make the stadium even more repulsive, a true eyesore. It's amazing city planners fight over how many feet by feet the signs on buildings Downtown are, calling those 'eyesores,' yet they allow this to happen."

As much fun as it is to rant about the stadium, several of those who wrote in, including some who were pretty good ranters, suggested everyone remember this is a playing field for a game.

As Joe Lesnick of Forest Hills wrote, "Get over it and let's enjoy some football."

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