PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates
When the Pittsburgh Pirates hit a home run, television play-by-play announcer Greg Brown announces to the viewers; “Clear the Deck. Cannonball Coming!” It’s a great home run call. It’s not too over the top, has a local flavor and grows on you so that it just seems natural. PNC Park in Pittsburgh is just like that. Though not as steeped in history or tradition as Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, or as glitzy and shiny as Yankee Stadium or AT&T Park, PNC Park may just be the perfect ballpark. PNC Park was opened in 2001 on the North Shore of the Allegheny River. It is owned by the public authority, Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, which owns all of the major sports facilities in Pittsburgh. At the height of the Pirates’ futility in 2007, they were purchased by entrepreneur Robert Nutting and everything has looked up since. The Pirates are the owners of five World Series championships (1909, 1927, 1960, 1971 and 1979) and have made an appearance in the MLB playoffs as a Wild Card representative in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Pirates date back to 1882, when they were known as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys and have continued their steep tradition and history to the present day. Pittsburgh is often referred to as the City of Champions and has honored their sports heroes accordingly at the stadium and throughout the city. A trip to see the Pirates at PNC is a must for any baseball fan. After taking in a game you may just agree that PNC Park is the perfect ballpark.
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 seem 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. Behind the center field fence the smoke from Mandy’s BBQ can be seen also. 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 from Primanti Brothers. If you are even more adventurous, try the Cuban Dog or the Cracker Jack Mac and Cheese Dog.
For beverages, Coca-Cola products are what you will find throughout the park ($5.75/$8.50). 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 Summer Ale, Hop Sun Southern Tier, Full Pint White Lightning and Penn Breweries are all available ($8/$9.25/$11). The local brews are found in the Smorgasburgh area by third base.
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 most 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 nice 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 by the bridge 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 check out the Highmark Legacy Square just inside the left field gate. This exhibit memorializes the local Negro Leagues experience of the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. Bronze statues are a large part of the exhibit including a statue of pitching legend Satchel Paige. A trip through the concourses offer a 360 degree trip around the park. Just past center field you will find the kids play area. 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 fan is left with a more intimate feeling than found at other stadiums. Along the upper deck fascia you 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. 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.
The in-game production is also great with a good balance of promotions that do not lead to that feeling of being overloaded. The balance of traditional organ with modern music is good. The Parrot mascot does his thing and caters to the kids. One of the highlights of the production would have to be the Pierogie Race, one of the better mascot races in the league. Sundays in the summer are kids’ days and Federal St is closed and a bunch of activities are available for the kids before the game.
The sightlines 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’s 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 Consol Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Further south you will also find Petersen Events Center which hosts the Pitt Panthers basketball programs.
There are a number of hotels nearby 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.
Pirate fans are as good as any other set of fans in Major League Baseball. The Pirates had numerous terrible years, but the last three specifically have been pretty good. In the 2014 season, the Pirates averaged over 30,000 fans per game, and they did the same in the 2015 season. The 2016 season has seen a little dip in attendance figures, but that could be due to the review date coming before the summer months of July and August. These figures put the Pirates in the middle of the pack for average attendance in the MLB. They are about the same for the capacity filled at home dates. The Pirates have some room to grow, but they are by no means in a bad position attendance wise. The fans in attendance are knowledgeable and polite. They are into the game and supportive of the Pirates when they do something great and the noise level rises when the Pirates really need a boost.
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 ParkWiz 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
Getting to a Pirates game offers the opportunity for fans to experience a Major League Baseball experience at a relatively decent price. The Pirates, like many other MLB teams employs a real-time ticketing model. This means that prices for tickets may fluctuate. However, according to the 2015 fan cost index, the Pirates were in the bottom third of all teams in the MLB and had average ticket prices of just under $20. Parking and concession prices are also reasonable. The Pirates and PNC Park also provide one of the best experiences in all of Major League Baseball and offer a very strong return for the investment that the fan provides.
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.
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.
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. Cannonball Coming!
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
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!