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Let the games begin, Heinz Field boss says

Saturday, August 25, 2001

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Heinz Field construction boss Jack Mascaro could be forgiven for having a little extra swagger in his step yesterday.

Miles Caragein, 12, of Dormont, uses a rubber mallet to attach a piece of plastic to cup holders yesterday at Heinz Field. Miles was there with his mother, Marie, one of about a dozen members of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard helping prepare the stadium for today's football game. (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

His $281 million, 65,000-seat baby was 99 percent complete, and no papa could have been prouder.

"You know how I know we're ready to move in? Because the beer and the snacks are being delivered," said Mascaro, chief executive officer of Pittsburgh-based Mascaro Construction Co.

The firm has had a joint venture with Hunt Construction Co. of Indianapolis as construction manager for the massive stadium project across from the Point.

"I may be partial, but I think it's awesome," said Mascaro, whose sons, Jeff, John and Michael and brother Vince also worked on the project. "It gives you a great feeling of accomplishment. It's going to be a fun place for people to hang out."

The joint venture of Mascaro/Hunt has directed a total of 1,400 workers who have erected steel, installed wiring, painted walls, planted grass and done dozens of other jobs on the stadium over the last two years.

Mascaro said he was especially proud of the fact there had been no lost-time accidents on the construction site and no construction-related lawsuits to slow down the project, which has been under a tight time schedule since ground was broken in June 1999.

Heinz Field General Manager Jimmie Sacco, who works for the Steelers, said he was "more excited than nervous" as last-minute finishing touches were put yesterday on the giant yellow-seated facility.

 
 
TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS

Sports fans heading into the city today for the Steelers' preseason game against the Detroit Lions or the Pirates' game with the Houston Astros will face some traffic restrictions.

The Liberty Bridge will be closed in both directions until 6 a.m. Monday. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation initially had planned not to close the bridge on Steelers weekends but changed course this week to get the repair work done.

That will make driving a bit more challenging, not only for those going to Saturday's 1 p.m. Steelers game but also to the Pirates' 7 p.m. game.

PennDOT hopes this is the last weekend the bridge will be closed.

In addition to the Liberty Bridge, the inbound side of the Liberty Tunnels also will be closed.

The primary detour is Route 51, West End Circle and West Carson Street, although there are other ways to get to town from the South Hills, such as Second Avenue through Hazelwood or Route 837 and Carson Street through the South Side.

And don't forget: All lanes of the Boulevard of the Allies are closed outbound between the Liberty Bridge and South Oakland, and only one lane inbound is open through the same stretch.

On the parking front, officials suggest that fans find spots in garages Downtown and either walk or take mass transit across the Allegheny River to Heinz Field.

Several thousand parking spaces are available on the North Shore between the two stadiums, but traffic also will be super heavy on game days as motorists jockey for those spots.

Park in town and take a hike or a bus.

   
 

"I think the fans are really going to enjoy this," said Sacco, who, as an employee of Spectacor Management Group, ran Three Rivers Stadium from 1990 until it was razed in February.

Fans will get their first chance to find out how the stadium works for football today at 1 p.m., when the Steelers play the Detroit Lions in a sold-out preseason game. Another preseason game is set for Thursday and the first regular season game will be Sept. 16 against the Cleveland Browns.

Steelers President Dan Rooney was in a nostalgic mood yesterday as he walked through the Coca-Cola Great Hall, a hall of fame for the Steelers and Pitt Panthers that occupies the interior of the first floor on the entire east side of the stadium.

He said his grandfather -- the father of Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. -- once owned Rooney's Bar, which was on General Robinson Street, just down the street from Exposition Park, where the Pirates played ball in the early 20th century.

"I think my father would enjoy this [opening of Heinz Field], especially since he was a North Sider and his father's pub was right down the street," Dan Rooney said. "It's terrific to get to this point."

Speaking of "the Chief," the statue of him seated and smoking a cigar is now in place near Art Rooney Avenue, a new street that runs just east of the stadium. The new location for the statue is about 100 feet from its former site outside Gate D of Three Rivers Stadium. A column reading Gate D still stands near the southern end of Heinz Field -- the only part of Three Rivers that was saved from the wrecking ball.

Near the Rooney statue, construction worker Tom Fedkoe of Bethel Park was installing some of the 10,000 feet of caulk that is being squeezed between the large concrete slabs in the south plaza, which stretches between the river and the stadium. The caulking keeps water from getting between the slabs, freezing and cracking it.

He said it was his first day on the job but he liked what he saw. "I even like the yellow seats. They stand out and give the stadium some color."

Workers yesterday were installing the last of the three-foot-high metal guardrails around the outside of the parking lots east of the stadium. Mascaro said the stadium is nearly completed, although it could take a couple months to go through a "punch list" of minor items.

Kevin Stark of Irwin, who works for Patrinos Painting of Bethel Park, was doing touch-up painting at the base on an interior wall of a service corridor below the north end zone.

"I take pride in this," he said. "I am part of something the whole country will be talking about."

Construction managers have been putting in long hours to get the stadium ready on time, Mascaro said, with many working 10 to 12 hours a day for the last 30 days straight. About 60 of his employees put in a 16-hour day last Saturday, to make sure the stadium functioned correctly for its very first event, the 'N Sync concert.

One task yet to be done is erecting large signs reading "Heinz Field" at gates A, B and C at the south, northeast and northwest sections, respectively.

That task must await a hearing set for Wednesday by the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment. A community group, the Allegheny West Civic Council, has challenged the signs as being advertising, which isn't allowed in that area of the North Shore. The Steelers and Heinz maintain the signs are "building identification," which is permitted.

The zoning board also must approve the size of several Coca-Cola signs to be hung around the Great Hall. The Steelers got $57 million over 20 years from Heinz for naming rights to the stadium itself, but the team has declined to say how much Coke is paying to name the Great Hall.

If the zoning board allows the signs, it still will be another month before they are erected. The largest "Heinz Field" sign will go on the back of the scoreboard, facing the rivers and the Point.

Another task still to be done at the stadium is painting white yard lines on the green-painted floor of the Great Hall, to make the floor look like a football field. Rooney said that will be done after the first Pitt game on Sept. 1 but before the Steelers' regular-season home opener.

Also in the Great Hall, hanging from the roof, is a replica of a football helmet, about 20 feet in diameter, in which video monitors still must be installed. The monitors will show the action on the playing field while a game is going on, Rooney said, and before and after games will show game highlights or other sports news.

Last-minute preparations were going on inside and outside the stadium yesterday. Veteran electrician Dave Thomas, who works for Sargent Electric Co., was putting up a large red letter C (at Gate C in the northwest corner) and a large blue B for a sign in the northeast corner.

He stood atop an apparatus called a manlift, which used a scissors-like mechanism to raise him 20 feet in the air.

He's worked at the stadium for 17 months, doing jobs like running electric conduit through steel pans beneath concrete floors and installing lighting in bathrooms and on the outside of the upper level.

"I'm happy to be working on this," he said. "It's been a real nice job."

In other stadium-related news:

Officials said the new concrete "riverwalk" that stretches along the Allegheny River will be open today (and for all Steelers home games) from PNC Park to Heinz Field. Usually just the section near PNC Park is open. The riverwalk is part of a new $47 million riverfront park that is still under construction.

Eventually there will be places along the riverwalk for boats to moor, but those aren't installed yet. Gateway Clipper boats will land at a new riverfront docking area just south of Heinz Field and fans can walk up a hill (under North Shore Drive) to Gate A at the south end zone.

Pittsburgh Cruise Lines will operate a water shuttle from the Mon Wharf parking lot to and from Heinz Field for all Steelers home games. The round-trip water shuttle costs $5 per person. Parking at the wharf lot costs $3. The 900-space lot, which is run by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, is normally closed on weekends. The water shuttle will also operate for Pitt Panther games.



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