PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates
Raise the Jolly Roger 2.0
Few experiences in sport are able to offer the full package quite like the Pittsburgh Pirates. One of the oldest franchises in all of sport, the Pirates began their existence as Allegheny in 1882 and would eventually be known as the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1891. Throughout that existence the Pirates have had a roller coaster of success on the field, but have brought home the World Series trophy to the City of Champions five times. The “We Are Family” era of the seventies is particularly fondly remembered. A host of MLB Hall of Famers have come through Pittsburgh and many are memorialized.
In 2001, the Pirates moved from the seventies era, “cookie-cutter” Three Rivers Stadium, into what is arguably the best park in all of Major League Baseball. PNC Park is owned by the Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and located on the Northshore, right on the Allegheny River. Few ballparks even come close to achieving the view and atmosphere that PNC does. Just about every ranking of Major League ballparks has PNC ranked in the top 5.
Currently owned by Robert Nutting, the Pirates have come to the end of their current renaissance and are once again retooling for the future. Having earned Wild Card berths in 2013, 2014 and 2015, success returned to the Steel City after a solid decade of futility. However, with the moving on of franchise player Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates are once again searching for an identity and attempting to once again Raise the Jolly Roger.
Food & Beverage 5
It is unfortunate that score for food is only out of five.
The food selection at PNC Park is the gold standard among concessions in the entire MLB. There seems to be an infinite number of concession stands throughout the stadium as would be expected. Many of them are the North Shore Refreshment Co or Riverwalk Grill, which are the standard concession outlets with the standard concession fare. Hot dogs ($3.50), pretzels, nachos, popcorn and the like are all available.
However, if you are adventurous or are looking for something unique, then you will want to try one of the truly unique stands. If you head to the third base concourse on the main level you will encounter Smorgasburgh, an area that features many of the unique concession options. Quaker Steak and Lube, BRGR, and Primanti Brothers are all in this area. Rita’s Ice Custard Happiness and Menchie’s are not too far away either. Chickie’s and Pete’s famous Crabfries are available in Pop’s Plaza. Also worth checking out is the Tootie’s Famous Italian Beef stand. Behind the center field fence the smoke from Manny’s BBQ can also be seen. You may even get to see former Pirate Manny Sanguillen working that day. As far as recommendations go, there is nothing more Pittsburgh than a capicola sandwich at Primanti Brothers.
For beverages, Coca-Cola products are what you will find throughout the park ($3.25/$5.75). If you are a beer connoisseur then you are in luck. The beer selection at PNC is phenomenal featuring major and local specialty brews. Corona, Heineken, Miller Lite, Yuengling, Iron City, Riverstone, Sam Adams, Leinenkugels, Full Pint White Lightning and Penn Breweries are all available ($8/$9.25/$11). Miller Lite, Bud Light and Coors Light are also available.
PNC Park is in the perfect location and offers the best possible atmosphere for baseball. Located on the North Shore of the Allegheny River, PNC Park offers a picturesque location for baseball in Pittsburgh. It is right by the three main bridges that connect the North and South shores, the closest which is named after Pirates legend Roberto Clemente. The Riverwalk between the outfield and the rivers is quite nice on a summer day and it is not uncommon for people to dock their boats here and take in a game.
Around the outside of the park you will find four bronze statues honoring Pirate legends. At the home plate entrance you will find the Honus Wagner statue and at the southwest corner of the park you will find Bill Mazeroski, running the bases after hitting his 1960 World Series walk off home run. On the east side of the park are the statues for Willie Stargell and right at the end of the bridge that bears his name, is the Roberto Clemente statue. The exterior of PNC Park is very nice with grey and cream colored brick and stone which accentuates the black steel used for the light stands and other steel structure parts.
Inside the park fans will want to take a good walk around the ballpark to see all it has to offer. Just past center field you will find the kids play area. The center field Riverwalk features flags representing the Pirates’ National League Pennants along with the bronzed hands of Ralph Kiner and a slightly eerie bronze head of former Pirates president, Carl Barger. Inside the seating bowl fans will immediately notice the smaller capacity. PNC Park only has one upper level to go with their main seating level. A more intimate feeling is what the fan is left with than at other stadiums. Along the upper deck fascia in right field, fans will find the retired numbers of Pirate greats Billy Meyer, Ralph Miner, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Paul Waner, Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, and Danny Murtaugh as well as baseball’s retirement of Jackie Robinson’s number 42.
The press box is right behind home plate at the top of the stadium. Immediately below that are the pennants for the five World Series championships the Pirates have earned in 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979. Behind left field stands the video board which is pretty decent. There are a whole host of little things that help PNC Park feel like the perfect park from the wrought iron fences to the Pirates shrubbery in the batter’s eye. More modern lounge areas have been added to PNC and although they are not as prominent as in some parks, they are still there for fans who desire a different ballpark experience.
Although PNC is shooting for the classic ballpark experience, technology is not lost for fans. The center field video board is more than adequate for Major League Baseball, however is a little dated. The right field fence features the out of town scoreboard video wall, which is also used for other promotions. There is also a ribbon board on the lower fascia. Fans are given their fill of classic and modern statistics using each.
The game day presentation at a Pirates game is a bit of a throwback. Although the players have modern walk-up music and the video board is used throughout the game, it is classic sports organ music that dominates. The Pirate Parrot mascot interacts with fans with the help of the promo team. Also, a highlight in the game is the Pierogi Race, which is similar to many other mascot type races throughout MLB.
The sight lines at PNC Park are great. However, one would be remiss if they missed the opportunity to catch the game with the fantastic view of the bridges, river and downtown Pittsburgh. Pick a seat somewhere behind the plate or along the bases with a great view of the outfield.
The North Shore neighborhood is fantastic and offers a variety of pre and post game food options. Federal Street has a couple of restaurants that are a part of PNC Park on the exterior. Atria’s is a good choice here for a drink or food. Other spots in the immediate area include SoHo, Mullen’s Bar and Grill, Beerhead Bar, McFadden’s, the Tilted Kilt and Jerome Bettis Grill 36.
Some of the other activities in the area include kayaking on the Allegheny, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Byham Theatre on the other side of the river. Just up the street from PNC Park is Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers. On the other side of the river is the PPG Paints Arena, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Further south you will also find Petersen Events Center which hosts the Pitt Panthers basketball programs. Other NCAA options in the immediate area include the Duquesne Dukes, who play basketball at the A.J. Palumbo Center and in nearby Moon, the Robert Morris Colonials play basketball at the Sewall Center, while they play hockey off campus at 84 Lumber Arena.
There are a number of hotels that will leave the fan with an extremely short walk to PNC Park. These include the Hyatt Plaza Pittsburgh, Residence Inn, Spring Hill Suites and Holiday Inn.
It is fair to say that Pittsburgh fans will support a winner and will find something else to do when the team is not winning. With a few difficult seasons for the Pirates, attendance has been trending down. The small capacity of PNC Park should cater to those off years a little better, however the Pirates have drawn lower attendance figures each season since 2015. With an average attendance of over 23,000 in 2017 and 2018 dropping to under 17,000, it is clear that Pirate fans can do better. In 2017 their MLB ranking was 25th for attendance. Keeping in mind that there is some animosity between the fans and current owner Robert Nutting, as well as the game which was reviewed in 2018 was before the summer months, when all baseball attendance is better, there is some explanation for attendance drops. However, with such a wonderful park, and great experience, fans should be flocking to the ballpark.
Getting to PNC Park is not too difficult. It is easily accessible from I-279, which is immediately north of the ballpark. The I-579 is just east of the ballpark as well. A couple of things should be remembered however. Pittsburgh is not the easiest city to get around. It is full of hills and valleys and there are of course the three rivers right downtown. Bridges closing, specifically the Roberto Clemente Bridge, during game days can be an issue, so plan your route well.
If you are interested in public transportation, there are a number of buses that travel nearby streets including both East and West Commons as well as Ridge Ave. On the other side of Heinz field is the Allegheny Subway station. Check out the Port Authority of Allegheny website for maps, schedules and fares.
With close proximity to Heinz Field comes a plethora of parking options. There are huge parking lots to the west of PNC Park and a number of other surface lots and parking garages. If you like to plan your parking ahead of time, websites like ParkWhiz or Parking Panda are a great help and take the guesswork out of parking for the ballgame.
Getting around PNC Park is not a problem at all. The concourses have ample space and movement is not a problem. Getting to the upper deck can be a dizzying experience if you take one of the large rotunda to get there. The washroom facilities are also more than adequate.
Return on Investment 5
The Pittsburgh Pirates offer great value for the fan. MLB is by far the most economical option out of the four major sports and the Pirates are well below the league average. According to the 2018 Fan Cost Index, the Pirates are the third cheapest option in Major League Baseball with an index number of $178.72, well below the MLB average of over $230. Ticket pricing is becoming increasingly difficult to assess with “Real Time” ticketing pricing. Pirate tickets can be found for the most part between $19 and $50. For the game reviewed, tickets right behind home plate were purchased for $49. Concession prices are decent and parking can easily be found for $10. Combine that with one of the best baseball experiences and fans can’t go wrong.
An extra mark for the fantastic location and view of the Allegheny River, Roberto Clemente Bridge and South Shore of Downtown Pittsburgh, from the stands at PNC Park.
An extra mark for the grassroots rumbling that Major League Baseball should retire number 21 for all teams in honour of the Pirates Roberto Clemente. A “Retire 21” banner hangs on the left field rotunda and the number 21 can be found on the right field wall by the scoreboard.
An extra point for the City of Pittsburgh going beyond expectation. The idea of Pittsburgh as a dirty Steel City is far from the truth, and the first trip to Pittsburgh will be a pleasant surprise.
Two extra points for a great focus on kids every Sunday. The street party and Sunday giveaways are showing that the Pirates are doing everything within their power to attract the next generation to the ballpark.
An extra mark lost for the Pirates dismantling the Highmark Legacy Square, which paid tribute to local Negro League legends. The Pirates sold off the bronze statues that were in the square and there are currently no remnants of the former square.
The Pirates are building on the field once again. Providing one of the premier experiences in baseball and a view to die for, PNC Park should be at the top of any baseball bucket list for fans who have not yet been. With increased success, raising the jolly roger will be a common occurrence and maybe a return to the playoffs will be in the not too distant future.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
A trip to PNC Park to see the Pittsburgh Pirates needs to be part of every baseball fan’s bucket list. It is one of the premiere destinations in all of Major League Baseball, yet is not priced to be a premiere destination. Once you visit PNC Park for the first time, you will quickly realize that it won’t be your last time.
Stunning location, and does a spectacular job of representing the city of Pittsburgh. Walking across Roberto Clemente Bridge to get to the park was awesome. I also consider the city underrated, it&#039s definitely worth a visit!