First stage of Pitt’s Victory Heights plan set to be completed in 2024


TPN File Photo

Heather Lyke is Pitt’s athletic director.

By Brian Sherry, Staff Writer

Planning and building out a $250 million construction plan during a pandemic does not come without obstacles, but Pitt Athletics spokesperson E.J. Borghetti said the University expects to begin construction this year and open some facilities in 2024.

Despite recent challenges created by the pandemic, the project’s vision remains firmly on track,” Borghetti said. “Originally set to break ground in 2021, that date will now take place in 2022 with anticipated construction starting in the fall of [2022].”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pitt announced plans for a $250 million expansion to its athletic facilities. The plan, known as Victory Heights, called for a new 3,500-seat multi-purpose arena, eight-lane indoor track and athletic performance center, among other new buildings. The University hopes the plan will allow Pitt Athletics to keep pace with the rapidly improving facilities of its ACC rivals.

“For far too long, a significant percentage of our student-athletes have been forced to compete in facilities that do not reflect the lofty standards and aspirations of the University of Pittsburgh,” Athletic Director Heather Lyke said at a January 2020 press conference. “That will change with the launch of our Victory Heights campaign.”

Financing the project poses another issue exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The University intends to offset the hefty $250 million price tag by relying on donations, according to Borghetti.

“Pitt Athletics continues to be supported by an enthusiastic, committed group of donors, whose generosity will work to offset the University’s $250 million debt financing of the project,” Borghetti said. “Donor support for Victory Heights, even in the midst of the pandemic, continues to surge ahead, reflecting belief in Pitt’s vision of comprehensive athletics excellence.”

The University may be hard pressed to cover the costs through donations alone. Borghetti said fundraising efforts have currently raised $11 million in donations, or about 4% of the total.

Despite the costs, Borghetti said the project will greatly benefit athletes and students alike. The plan mainly intends to move several teams away from the now septuagenarian Fitzgerald Field House, which houses offices and facilities for 16 of Pitt’s 20 athletic programs.

“Victory Heights will positively impact 85% of Pitt’s student-athletes, providing them with championship-caliber training, sports medicine and competition facilities,” Borghetti said. “It will also greatly benefit the larger University community, serving as a campus connector for students, faculty and staff.”

Pitt band will also benefit from the expansion, which includes a band practice facility to be constructed in the new indoor track building. Director Brad Townsend said he’s excited to finally have a permanent home for the program, which doesn’t currently have its own practice facility. 

“We are stuffed down in a basement at Trees [Hall] right now,” Townsend said. “So to have a place that’s our own where we can sit down and teach music, get better and have some high-quality places to store our equipment will be a real game changer.”

Townsend was also happy that Pitt welcomed input from the band for the new facility.

“[The University was] great about that,” Townsend said. “They came right to us, knowing that we’re the ones that know the band the best and what the needs would be.”

Jack Bailey, the current band drum major, said he’s also excited for the new facilities. Bailey, a senior microbiology major, anticipates that the new practice facility will greatly benefit all students in the band.

“I think I speak for everyone in that we are all incredibly excited for the new facility to be built,” Bailey said. “It will give us a permanent place to call home and will bring us several new and updated features that will allow us to make tremendous strides as a band.”

For now, the project remains in the planning stage, with construction on the first buildings beginning this fall.

The Victory Heights project is just one part of Pitt’s Campus Master Plan, a detailed outline of the future of Pitt’s Oakland campus and its plan for development over the next 20 to 30 years. Other plans include new student housing, a new student recreation and wellness center on O’Hara Street, an academic complex known as One Bigelow and more.