Everyone is up in arms about the July 11 announcement that Heinz Field would be no more.
As beloved as the stadium is to thousands of Pittsburgh Steelers fans, no one is more connected to Heinz Field than the team’s former quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
Mark the future Hall of Famer as one of the many against the new Acrisure Stadium name.
“I can’t believe it, it doesn’t seem right or real! Home will always be Heinz Field,” Roethlisberger tweeted. “I will never forget the last game and all the amazing fans at FOREVER HEINZ!”
Roethlisberger’s career officially started at Heinz Field in Week 4 of his 2004 rookie season when the Steelers welcomed the Cincinnati Bengals. Roethlisberger took the reigns from injured Tommy Maddox in Week 2 versus the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, and he never looked back.
During his 18-season career, Roethlisberger posted a 92–32 record in 124 regular-season games at Heinz Field.
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End of an Era
WFAN’s Andrew Filliponi broke the news on Sunday, July 10, that the ketchup giant would not extend its naming rights deal for 2022. Heinz Field, the name synonymous with the Pittsburgh Steelers for 21 years, is no more.
July 12 marked the end of an era in Pittsburgh when the Steelers’ owner Art Rooney II held a press conference officially announcing the shift from Heinz Field to Acrisure Stadium. The Steelers and Acrisure, a global insurance firm based in Michigan, entered into a 15-year agreement.
“We are excited to partner with Acrisure for the naming rights to our stadium,” Rooney said. “Acrisure provided us with an opportunity to ensure our stadium continues to be a valuable asset for our fans as well as keeping up with the market value of NFL stadiums. We are very appreciative to partner with Greg Williams and his company, and we look forward to a long, beneficial relationship for years to come.”
We knew a change was likely. Sports Business Journal reported in 2019 that the “distance between the buyer and (re)seller is vast.” The naming rights contract of the Steelers stadium was initially supposed to expire after the 2020 season, but the two parties reached a short-term deal to extend through 2021.
Rooney told WPXI’s Jenna Harner in February that he was hopeful the name would remain. “It’s something that we’re having some conversations with Heinz, obviously, about it. And I think we’ll know the answer to that soon,” Rooney told WPXI’s Jenna Harner. “But I’m optimistic about keeping the name as is.”
It took the demolition of an iconic venue — Three Rivers Stadium — for Steelers fans to accept the name Heinz Field. Construction of the Steelers’ new home began on June 18, 1999, on a site adjacent to Three Rivers Stadium and cost $281 million. In June 2001, the Heinz ketchup company purchased the naming rights for $57 million.
The Steelers made their debut at Heinz Field on October 7, 2001. The home opener was originally scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001, but was pushed to January after the September 11 attacks. Pittsburgh defeated the Bengals by a score of 16-7 and running back Jerome Bettis eclipsed the 10,000-yard career rushing mark.
The deal’s financial terms haven’t been disclosed, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “some experts estimated that the agreement could bring the Steelers as much as $10 million to $20 million a year.”
A press release by Kraft Heinz (the two companies merged in 2015) on July 11 stated, “While we worked diligently with the Steelers for several months around a new naming rights deal, they found a new partner willing to pay significantly more than we could justify. While our name will no longer be on the stadium, Heinz will remain a significant, long-term sponsor of the Steelers and we’re excited to announce the details of our new partnership in the days ahead.”
Could the Heinz sponsorship include keeping the iconic, larger-than-life ketchup bottles that perch atop the scoreboard?
We’ll have to wait to find out.