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Steelers Great Hall a Steelers shrine

Pitt history also has a place there

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Before fans wander into those bright yellow seats and see the spectacular sight lines at Heinz Field, the Steelers' stadium of the future, it will almost be impossible for them not to be reminded of the Steelers' glorious past.

Particularly if they enter through the, uh, side door of the new stadium.

Steelers season ticket holders get their first look at the Coca-Cola Great Hall, featuring four 20-foot high metal facsimiles of Super Bowl trophies, on the east side of Heinz Field. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

Perhaps it is appropriate that immediately inside Gate B -- the gate which looks out on the former site of Three Rivers Stadium -- the Steelers will honor their former stars and Hall of Fame players with everything from timelines to computer stations equipped with video games to four 20-foot-high metallic structures in the shape of Super Bowl trophies.

That is where the Steelers will present their Coca-Cola Great Hall, a tribute to the history of the franchise and Three Rivers Stadium, for fans who enter Heinz Field through Gate B.

The Great Hall runs the entire length of the east side of the stadium, from the north end zone to the south end zone, and will be painted to resemble a football field, replete with yard stripes and colored end zones.

The end zones will resemble the old end zones at Three Rivers Stadium, including the black stenciled "Steelers" logo against a yellow background.

Gate A, which is nearest the Allegheny River and features a boat dock, is considered the main gate of the new stadium. That's where fans will enter through the open end of the building.

But Gate B is the entrance that will be the most entertaining. Literally. Especially when a local band is performing on a small stage in front of retractable bleachers that will turn the Great Hall into a veritable pro football marketplace.

"We did build this stadium with a front door, which is kind of unusual for a stadium," said Art Rooney II, the team's vice president. "Gate A is kind of the main gate. But Gate B has all this."

The Steelers will not be alone in the exhibit. The University of Pittsburgh, which is getting nearly equal billing in the stadium, will have several banners and exhibits of its former stars in the Great Hall. But they will not be as prevalent as those of the former Steelers players.

What's more, the Great Hall is not just for touring on game days. The exhibits will be open on non-game days, too, for fans who don't have tickets to Steelers games and want to see the new stadium. A small admission fee will be charged, though Rooney said the fee has not been determined.

It all starts soon as you enter the steel gates at Gate B. That's where the Walk of Fame -- the team's tribute to its 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- begins.

The Pittsburgh Sideline souvenir store is located in the Great Hall. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

There will 18 glass-enclosed lockers filled with memorabilia for each of the Hall of Fame members, including team founder, the late Art Rooney Sr., team president Dan Rooney and former coach Chuck Noll. Those players who performed in Three Rivers Stadium will have their memorabilia displayed in the actual locker they used in the old stadium.

"The guys who came from Three Rivers, Joe Greene, Franco [Harris], we got their actual lockers," Rooney said. "We picked some other lockers for my dad, my grandfather, Bill Dudley, people like that."

Beyond that, fans will be greeted by banners of former players, television screens showing videos of old Steelers teams, a time line depicting the history of the franchise from the 1930s and 10 kiosks equipped with computer stations where fans can call up old video of their favorite players and Steelers moments.

"We did a special video for the Great Hall that's kind of a history video of the Steelers," Rooney said. "When you walk along the timeline, you'll be able to watch a video clip that runs with that time in history."

The kiosks are separate from the giant metallic replicas of the four Super Bowl trophies, where fans can find artifacts and memorabilia from each of the four Super Bowl victories. Rooney said the Steelers are even thinking of putting the actual Super Bowl trophies inside a glass-enclosed area of each of the four giant metal structures.

"Maybe not on a permanent basis," Rooney said. "It depends how we feel about security."

Inside the Great Hall, there is also a giant Steelers helmet suspended from the ceiling featuring an oversized video screen. The helmet hangs above a stage where bands can perform on game days. Portable bleachers have been erected for fans to view the pregame entertainment. It's also the potential site for "Cope's Cabana," the postgame show hosted by broadcaster Myron Cope.

Off to the left, an Irish Pub will be erected for fans who might need an ale before digesting Cope's Cabana.

"We can have parties for Monday night football so people can come in here and watch games," Rooney said.

Oh, and one other thing.

"There's kind of a light show that goes on for touchdown celebrations," Rooney said.

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