Filling Heinz Field

When he was hired for a second stint as Pitt's athletic director, Steve Pederson readily accepted a challenge to fill Heinz Field and has devised a comprehensive plan to accomplish a goal that hasn't been achieved the past four seasons.

The University of Pittsburgh hasn't sold out Heinz Field since 2003, when an average of some 59,000 fans strolled through the turnstiles. Pitt would like to sell out the 2008 season as well, as season tickets go on sale beginning today.

To achieve that status, Pederson and his staff have decided to put Pitt's fans first and sent a letter to the football season-ticket holders to find out how the athletic department can improve the Heinz Field experience. Pederson noted that he is on a "third giant notebook'' filled with responses to the inquiry.

"The fans have been great with their responses, and we've learned a lot of things,'' Pederson said. "The first thing we need to do is enhance the Heinz Field experience overall for our fans.''

Chris Ferris, Pitt's assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions, addressed three ways to reach that goal. The Panthers will guarantee parking for any season ticket holder for football where they can park in the same area all year, work with partners on the Pitt campus and the North Shore to initiate the world's largest family block party around Heinz Field and also conduct the world's largest student bash there as well. Details will be forthcoming.

Since the value also must be family-friendly, season-ticket prices were slashed substantially. Reed Patterson, director of ticket operations, noted that there were five different prices for season tickets for the six home games this fall:

Club seating, which is the middle section along the sidelines, is $270 per seat. A section along the lower and upper sideline is $144 per seat. A section along the lower end zone and upper sideline is $99 per seat. A section in the upper end zone is $72 per seat, and Pitt student tickets are $25 per seat.

While club seating tickets are the same as last year, the $144 and $99 seats were $199 last year. The $72 seats were $99, and students paid $49. This year, the band will be moved from the scoreboard side to one near the 10-yard line on the West (home) side near the students. A bus system will be used again to transport students from campus to Heinz Field.

Certain seats require donations to the Panther Club. That's $500 or $250 for Club Seats, depending on the location. It's $100 per seat in the Panther gold section. Panther blue is $75, and red is $50. Donates are for seats between the 20s. About 30,000 season tickets were sold last year, but Pederson said he wanted 50,000 this year with 10,000 students. That leaves 5,000 for visitors.

Tickets are available at the Pitt ticket office: 412-648-7488 or 1-800-643-PITT (7488) and on-line at

Season-ticket parking is $60. Pitt's home games are with Big East foes Rutgers Louisville and West Virginia, as well as Iowa (Sept. 20), Bowling Green (Aug. 30) and Buffalo (Sept. 6). Seven of Pitt's 12 opponents went to bowl games last season, and ironically perennial bowl teams Iowa and Louisville did not.

"We're going to be aggressive with our scheduling,'' Pederson said. "We're not going to back away from scheduling good, quality opponents. Coach Wannstedt hasn't made that request. He'll play people. (And) our plan is to play Saturday games. Right now, if we did play on an odd day, it would be on the road.

"I've already talked to the Big East, and we're not ever going to play at home on Friday. And if it works into the schedule, maybe a Thursday night, but we want it to be a game of magnitude. And if we have control of the game time, if there aren't TV commitments, we're going to play later in the day or early into the evening. That's our preference, 3:30 (p.m.) or beyond.''

Pederson added that he has been involved in discussions with the Steelers and Art Rooney II concerning "all issues surrounding the stadium,'' and he expected the turf situation to be resolved shortly. However, he did not know if the work would done in time for the spring game. Pederson did not mention an alternative, because "our preference is to play there.''

Pitt's spring game tentatively is scheduled for April 19.

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