ESPN plans 3-hour live broadcast of Steelers night practice
“Da, da, da! Da, da, da!”
ESPN will bring a three-hour live broadcast of “SportsCenter on the Road” to the Pittsburgh Steelers' night practice next month at Latrobe Memorial Stadium.
Network crews will be in the area in the coming weeks to film some well-known attractions that will be featured during the broadcast, said David Martin, president of Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“We're very, very lucky, and I think that's why everybody gets so excited when the Steelers come,” Martin said.
Preparations are under way at St. Vincent College for a deluge of black-and gold-clad players and their fans as the annual training camp gets started next week. Players will report to the college near Latrobe on July 28 and begin practicing at the grassy field where workers erected fences Wednesday afternoon.
The first open practice for fans will be July 29. In all, 14 practices will be open to the public, including the Aug. 5 night session ESPN is covering.
“The fields this year look fantastic,” said Larry Hendrick, the college's director of facility management.
ESPN's broadcast will air from 6 to 9 p.m. from the Latrobe stadium, according to Andy Hall, director of communications for the network. The show, hosted by Scott Van Pelt, will include analysis, interviews and feature stories about the Latrobe area, Hall said.
“We have done ‘SportsCenter' programs and reports from NFL training camps before, but this will be the longest show of this type,” Hall said.
Officials are excited about the opportunity to showcase the Latrobe area on ESPN's national stage.
“For the city of Latrobe and the Steelers, it's going to be pretty epic,” said Mark Mears, athletic director at Greater Latrobe School District. “I think it's going to be great for Latrobe to be spotlighted.”
Mears is expecting more fans at the night practice, which is used as a fundraiser for district students. The stadium has been sold out in the past, he said.
“Who knows how many are going to be there now,” he said. “We're bracing for Steeler Nation.”
That means balancing extra security with fan access at a practice that is almost as intense as a game, he said.
“It's nighttime, it's under the lights, and when you get that many fans there, it's more of a game environment,” Mears said.
Martin said he hopes to take the ESPN crew to several locations, including Sharky's Cafe, Dino's Sports Lounge, the Latrobe Country Club, various historical markers and to a statue of golf legend Arnold Palmer at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.
“The great thing about Latrobe (is) it's an international brand,” he said.
On campus, markers for player autographs, footballs and T-shirts are on shelves for fans to purchase, said the Rev. Anthony Grossi, college bookstore director. The store has stocked up on other Steelers and St. Vincent merchandise, as well as drinks and ice cream.
“It's really quiet now, but in about a week and two days, there will be wall-to-wall people in here,” Grossi said.
The dorm rooms are being transformed “into sort of a hotel for the Steelers as the rental beds and other things start coming in,” Hendrick said. Weight rooms are coming together and spas for the players are complete, he added.
“We have spent the last 10 days really ramping up to build what we call Steeler Nation to mix right in with our community here,” Hendrick said.
The annual training camp is a boon to area businesses and the airport as fans take over the town for about two weeks, Martin said.
“Our local shops will see the benefit of thousands of Steelers fans,” he said. “It's such a big deal for the area.”
And Steelers fans across the country will have the opportunity to see the hometown of children's television show host Fred Rogers showcased.
“What I'm excited about is those shots we're going to have,” Martin said.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or email@example.com.