The Heinz History Center is appealing to the Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment to keep its iconic giant ketchup bottle outside the museum. The bottle, salvaged from Acrisure Stadium during its rebranding, was installed in December 2023. The appeal follows the discovery that the hurried installation violated city zoning requirements due to its height and size.

At the heart of the dispute is the classification of the ketchup bottle. Andy Masich, President and CEO of the Heinz History Center, argues it is a historical artifact. In contrast, Alice Mitinger, zoning board chairwoman, contends it is a sign. If classified as a sign, the city’s zoning code limits ground signs to a maximum height of 40 feet. The 35-foot bottle, combined with its 17-foot platform, stands at 52 feet, exceeding the ordinance by 12 feet.

Masich asked for forgiveness at the May 9 zoning board hearing. He explained that since the history center viewed the object as a rare relic rather than a sign, they did not review sign ordinances. “It’s my mistake. I didn’t realize it was a sign,” Masich admitted during the hearing. Chairwoman Mitinger pointed out that the bottle could be used to identify the museum, but Masich countered that they had “no plans” to do so.

The history center is seeking two variances to allow the Heinz Ketchup Bottle to comply with zoning regulations. One variance addresses the height, while the other concerns the bottle’s square footage. The bottle’s face area is 280 square feet, whereas the zoning code permits a maximum of 150 square feet for ground signs.

After the formal hearing on May 9, the zoning board has 45 days to make its decision. The Heinz History Center remains hopeful for a positive outcome, believing that the iconic ketchup bottle is a beloved piece of Pittsburgh’s cultural heritage and should remain a fixture outside its Strip District location.

Foo, editor of The Pittsburgh Reporter, guides our newsrooms and meets neighbors. He shares heartfelt stories often overlooked.