Game Time for Pittsburgh: Hosting Fans, Tourists and Massive Celebrations

Citywide company meetings, trade shows and festivals are typically booked a year or more in advance, giving a city due time to accommodate the large influx of visitors coming to the area and complete renovations where they’re needed. A less predictable event that cities often face and must quickly prepare for is sports championships, from the professional level to high-stakes college games.

As the season goes on, cities can gauge the growing or shrinking chance that they will host playoff and championship games, parades and other events that come with the territory. No city knows that better this year than Pittsburgh, which had just enough time to wrap up their NHL Penguins celebrations after winning the Stanley Cup, before hosting the U.S. Open. Thirteen Stanley Cup home games brought an estimated 59,000 additional overnight visitors to the Steel City.

 

Smart Meetings talked with Karl Pietrzak, vice president of convention sales for Visit Pittsburgh, about how residents, businesses and the CVB came together to show off the city and celebrate.

The first step was understanding how to manage hotel inventory based on historical data—the city is no stranger to making the NHL playoffs, after all. Downtown hotels maximized rates for rooms on nights of home games, factoring in an expanded inventory thanks to new properties. New hotels downtown include the 248-room Hotel Monaco, A Kimpton Hotel; Hotel Indigo Pittsburgh East Liberty (135 rooms), which opened in October 2015;  Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh Downtown in Market Square (175 guest rooms); and a 225-suite Embassy Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Downtown, among others.

“While hotels, restaurants and retailers nearest to Consol Energy Center were impacted the most by the influx of visitors, all of our downtown hotels and restaurants saw a boost in sales from fans in town for the Penguins’ playoff games,” Pietrzak says. “ In addition, restaurants and bars throughout Allegheny County that showed the Penguins games benefited from the locals that came out to watch the games in their favorite places.”

 

One of the best perks of an unplanned event like making it to the playoffs is the prolonged effect it has on city tourism.

“It provides an opportunity for visitors to check out some other venues and attractions in Pittsburgh that they may not have otherwise visited,” Pietrzak explains. “And they would go back home and tell their friends and family about what cool things they experienced in Pittsburgh.”

Although Consol Energy Center may have been the star of the show in June, other attractions garnering visitors’ attention include The Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History and a ride up the Duquesne Incline to see the city’s skyline view.

 

“Sports lovers love the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center and the Clemente Museum,” Pietrzak. “The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, National Aviary, Carnegie Science Center and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh are among the most popular family-friendly attractions.”

Pietrzak and the rest of Visit Pittsburgh hardly had time to regroup before the U.S. Open kicked off at the Oakmont Country Club.

Endless Accolades

It was just announced following the Open’s conclusion that the Oakmont Country Club will host it again in 2025, making it a record 10 times hosting the tournament. In an interview, USGA Executive Director Mike Davis stated that the only golf course he believes could host the tournament in a pinch, should something unexpected come up, is the Oakmont Country Club.

“This place could do it,” Davis said. “This golf course is always seemingly in championship condition.”

How’s that for having to stay on your toes?

That could be one reason that Sporting News named the city Best Sports City, and USA TODAY’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice poll named Pittsburgh as one of the winners of the Best City for Sports travel award. It even changes its name on occasion to remind everyone that Pittsburgh is a force to be reckoned with. Coined “Sixburgh” after becoming the first city ever to win six Super Bowls and then more recently, Pensburgh following its fourth Stanley Cup win.

But the city has more going for it than trophies. It was also recently named one of the Best Places to Travel in 2016 by Travel + Leisure, rated the nation’s No. 1 Food City by Zagat and named among the Top Destinations on the Rise by TripAdvisor.

More to Celebrate

As if there weren’t enough to celebrate, Pittsburgh’s 200th anniversary is this year, having received a charter in March 1816 and swearing in their first mayor in July of the same year.
Events are happening throughout the year to celebrate the occasion, including the Bicentennial Birthday Bash July 8, which will include live music and delicious food—not to mention an epic birthday cake that will replicate the city skyline.

July 9, the city will celebrate the swearing in of the first-ever city mayor, Ebenezer Denny. A parade and festival at Point State Park will include a special fireworks display.

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