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Then there were two… Highmark Stadiums

Photo courtesy Ed Thompson

Then there were two… Highmark Stadiums

On Monday night, the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills announced a partnership with Pittsburgh-based Highmark, Inc. for the naming rights of its stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

The 48-year-old stadium located in Orchard Park originally was called Rich Stadium. It changed names to Ralph Wilson Stadium from 1998 to 2015 before New Era bought naming rights for seven years and $35 million in 2016.

But the struggling hat manufacturer requested a release from its naming rights and sponsorship deal last summer, and the team played last season in Bills Stadium.

This announcement caused a bit of a stir among Pittsburgh soccer fans and those who’ve come to know the original facility named Highmark Stadium located in Pittsburgh which has served as Western Pennsylvania’s soccer mecca and home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC.

Despite some of the initial commotion, this announcement may actually be a good jolt of publicity for the second-division Riverhounds SC as Highmark Inc. now positions itself with a high-profile marketing endeavor to grow its brand, especially in a region, Western New York, where it has expanded services.

The eight-year old soccer stadium, located on the grounds of Station Square, is now completely owned and operated by the Riverhounds SC. In 2019, Hounds owner Tuffy Shallenberger announced that he bought the land where the stadium was occupied.

“We owned the stadium, but they owned the dirt,” Shallenberger said. “We basically just bought the dirt.”

The $8 million transaction by Shallenberger Properties LLC put the stadium under his full ownership, a deal he said would allow for future upgrades.

The Riverhounds SC have a strong partnership with Highmark and its medical subsidiary, Allegheny Health Network. The Hounds’ primary uniform sponsor since 2015, Allegheny Health Network and the Hounds have also formed a partnership in building a new training facility and soccer complex in partnership with Friends of Pittsburgh Soccer.

Hounds partner with Highmark to construct new training and health facility

Here’s a few samples of reaction after the announcement came down on Monday night.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Pittsburgh Division I College Soccer Schedule (Spring 2021)

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