Steelers President Art Rooney II smiled as he showed those gathered at Heinz Field the image of what he called the first 'sports bar' in Pittsburgh, 'Dan Rooney Café & Bar,' an establishment that was opened by his great grandfather back in the early 1900s on Federal Street on the North Side.
"The Rooney name was established here long ago," said Rooney.
Then Rooney looked over his shoulder, outside the glass windows that overlook the neighborhood that once was home to that small café and bar, and again smiled. Because what he saw, was the progress that had been promised to the area.
Rooney was the keynote speaker at the North Side/North Shore Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Luncheon, an event that celebrates the contributions of area businesses, but also celebrates the vibrancy of the area.
"It's exciting to see," said Rooney of the way the North Shore and North Side have grown. "It was a long time coming in some ways. Back when Three Rivers was built a lot of promises were made and weren't quite realized. It's nice to see what is happening on the North Side/North Shore now. It's fantastic."
If you remember, and most of you probably do, the area surrounding Three Rivers Stadium was occupied by one thing, parking lots. The only way to find a place to eat on game day outside of the stadium, was at a tailgate party.
When Heinz Field was built the Steelers organization promised to grow the area around the North Shore, and through the years, since it opened in 2001, the progress has been beyond what many hoped for. Restaurants, Stage AE, which brings over 100 events to the North Shore every year, office complexes and hotels now surround the area between Heinz Field and PNC Park, more than 35 new businesses opening which have brought over 4,000 jobs, not including Heinz Field and PNC Park. On the west side of Heinz Field is Carnegie Science Center and Rivers Casino, both huge attractions for the area that continues to grow.
What it's meant for the North Shore and North Side, as well as the entire city of Pittsburgh, is jobs and a boost to the local economy in terms of local and state taxes created.
There was also a re-design of the infrastructure of the area when Heinz Field was built, with North Shore Drive now further back from the riverfront than when Three Rivers Stadium existed, allowing for the riverfront area itself to develop.
"I think that was a great idea," said Rooney. "It allowed the riverfront to be open to development and activities along the river. And I think that the idea of having more activity on the riverfront has been realized in a lot of ways by what was started with this Heinz Field.
"There are very few nights now on the North Shore where there's not some kind of activity. The level of activity has just grown to what I think people were hoping for way back when Three Rivers was located here. We're turning the corner."
Another office complex is under construction on the North Shore which will be home to between 900-1,000 employees and is expected to open in 2019. And it's not going to stop there.
"The great thing that is happening now is it's continuing down the river," said Rooney. "On the other side of the West End Bridge there's a lot of development plans. It just continues to expand all the way through the North Side.
"There is still a lot happening here on the North Shore, and I think a lot more development to come."
Rooney is well aware that the growth couldn't happen without the cooperation of many, and it's the other businesses and neighbors who have been integral parts of what is now a destination year round instead of just on game days.
"There are a lot of great businesses on the North Side and North Shore," said Rooney. "We are working together to make plans to make sure more people want to come over here and it will continue to grow."