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Steelers New indoor facility gets accolades from Steelers

Friday, October 06, 2000

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

It's not that the Steelers had been hoping for inclement weather. But, after having nearly $5 million spent by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to build a new indoor practice facility, they wanted to at least get some use from the complex.

Yesterday, they finally did.

Because of rain, the Steelers practiced for the first time in pads in the indoor facility that features a regulation field made of Field Turf -- a synthetic mix of indoor/outdoor carpeting, sand and recycled rubber from the bottom of sneakers. The indoor complex is located across the parking lot from their offices and outside practice fields at the $30 million South Side facility.

"It's great ... it's unbelievable," Coach Bill Cowher said. "We actually have more field here than the other side of the building. It allows us to never have a setback [because of the weather]."

"We're finally up to date with all the other teams," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "It's something we'll need when the weather's bad. We don't have to drive over to Pitt now."

When the Steelers were housed and practiced at Three Rivers Stadium, they would have to bus to Pitt's Cost Center or the indoor bubble at Duquesne University when the weather was bad.

Now they merely walk across the parking lot and use a field similar to ones installed at the University of Nebraska, University of Washington (where the Seattle Seahawks will play for two years) and Ringgold High School. The surface also is being used for practice areas at some golf courses, including Southpointe Golf Club in Canonsburg.

The artificial grass has a longer blade and is not as condensed as Astroturf, making it a little softer. The sand and rubber particles settle at the base of the surface and help provide better traction.

"It feels like softer Astroturf," Ward said.

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