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Riverhounds president Jeff Garner “open to building relationships” in Pittsburgh after success of 2023

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ footprint within the city’s sporting landscape could be set to grow in the coming years with more cross-promotion with the other franchises, President Jeff Garner has stated. 

This article is the latest in a five-part series in which Pittsburgh Riverhounds President Jeff Garner discusses various aspects of the team, both on and off the field. 

The 2023 season might not have ended in a championship for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, but what it did do was put the team on the map within the city. If you didn’t know who the Riverhounds were before the start of the season, there was a good chance you did by the time it ended, with attendance records being shattered left, right and centre and the team getting more attention from the media than it ever has before.

If you want to look at just one sign of just how big the Riverhounds managed to get in 2023, look back to the pregame ceremonies before that loss to Detroit City in the playoffs and the appearance of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jeff Jimerson performing the national anthem. That moment, in my eyes at least, was the moment that Pittsburgh gained their 4th ‘major’ team. When you have someone as renowned in the city as Mr Jimerson working with you, you know the team is onto something special moving forward.

But that moment was just the tip of the iceberg for what we can expect to see from the Riverhounds and their partnerships with the three other major sides and major athletes from across the city. Speaking exclusively with Pittsburgh Soccer Now, team president Jeff Garner talked to us about the connections that the team are working on to help grow as a franchise and ensure they don’t lose any traction, whether they be big or small: 

“We would love to do as much of that as possible. So we’ve been building relationships with all three of those teams (Steelers, Penguins & Pirates), not even just those teams, whether it be the Thunderbirds (an Ultimate Frisbee team that plays at Highmark Stadium), there’s other teams in Pittsburgh, so I think we’re open to building relationships and sharing in the great fans that Pittsburgh has regardless of the sports. We think there’s quite a bit of crossover actually, particularly with the Penguins and the Pirates, our fan bases tend to crossover, not so much in American football, so I think there are opportunities from a marketing standpoint.

“From a player standpoint, I think quite a lot of international players, particularly in baseball but also in hockey, sometimes had soccer as their first sport, so they enjoy coming over and watching games. I know we’ve gotten some requests for our new jersey to go over, so we’ve sent some jerseys over to some of the guys there. So I think there’s always an opportunity, the marketing staff at each of those teams has been great to work with, whether it be social media, or traditional marketing.”

I brought up to him the idea of hosting a charity game with someone like Steelers kicker Chris Boswell, who played soccer at Rice in college, or perhaps Plum native Pat McAfee who played varsity ball in high school, and whilst he did lay out some of the challenges involved, he didn’t say no to the concept: 

“First of all, there’s there’s not many events we wouldn’t consider, as much as the Riverhounds are a pro soccer club,  Highmark Stadium is open to all kinds of different events. I know there’s some crossover between those two. But as a stadium, we would love to host different events here. 

“I worked in pro baseball for a long time. Celebrity and charity softball games, like the Washington Wild Things tend to do, that’s absolutely something we would do. I think it’s a little bit easier to play softball for celebrities, depending on what shape they’re in or not. Soccer, I think we’d have to go shorter game shorter field, but I think we could still probably make it work.”

Featured image taken from The Pittsburgh Penguins on X

Glory on the Grass

Riverhounds MF Kenardo Forbes

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