The Legacy of the Pittsburgh Pipers

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Civic Arena
Civic Arena /

Civic Arena Protests

The Pipers shared the Civic Arena with Pittsburgh’s new hockey franchise, the Penguins. The construction of the massive structure had been under protest in the early 60’s, as the domed behemoth displaced thousands of citizens, mostly African American.

In all, Civic Arena cost the city a total of $22 million. It was greeted with cheers and jeers from across the city council aisles. However, construction of the stadium in the Lower Hills displaced over 8,000 citizens and 400 businesses. Over 80% of those families were African American; they were understandably upset.

Led by the NALC (Negro American Labor Council) and NAACP, Hill District residents protested at the construction site, demanding jobs for African Americans at the arena.  Eventually, the Labor Council, expansion teams and Civic Arena Owners came to an agreement promising to fill specific job openings with African American applicants. At times, negotiation were terse and Pittsburgh almost lost its one and only opportunity to have a professional basketball franchise.

By the time the Pipers made the ABA Finals in 1968, those same protesters had become the team’s most loyal supporters.

Next: Connie Hawkins Ends Up In Pittsburgh