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PITTSBURGH PIRATES: PNC Park
The Pittsburgh Pirates had everything they needed to make PNC Park the perfect fit into the current retro ballpark craze.
Striking view of downtown skyline? Check, the Pittsburgh skyline rises over the outfield.
Water somewhere nearby? Check, the Allegheny River flows close enough to hit a homer downstream (it’s 443 feet, 4 inches from home plate).
Incorporation of nearby unique architectural features? Check, the bright yellow Roberto Clemente Bridge forms the perfect frame for PNC Park.
Outfield barbecue run by former player? Check, as former Pirate Manny Sanguillen follows in the path of Boog Powell and Greg Luzinski with an outfield barbecue stand.
The Pirates had everything. And then they decided to tweak the retro formula to suit a small-market team. First, they downsized. With a capacity of 38,365, the stadium is the second-smallest in the major leagues, behind only Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. The Pirates then proceeded to do something unusual with their small amount of seats-they focused on the fans who would buy the vast majority of Pirates tickets.
In most new parks, designers focus first on the luxury suites and build outward from there. But at PNC Park, the first stadium since Milwaukee’s County Stadium to be built with a two-deck design, the luxury suites are tucked up under the upper deck and the press box is perched on top of the upper deck rather than the bottom. The result is an upper deck that is the lowest in the majors, and the highest seat is just 88 feet from the field. As befits a city that has had a 115-year relationship with the same team, designers made an extra effort to incorporate part of the franchise’s history into the design. The result? PNC Park’s right field wall rises 21 feet high in a tribute to legendary Pirates’ right fielder Roberto Clemente.
It is, perhaps, one of the most fan-friendly of all the new retro ballparks, and certainly one of the crown jewels of designer HOK Sports’s portfolio.
Year Built: 2001
‘12 attendance: 26,148 per game; 2,091,918 total
Dimensions: 325 to left, 386 to left-center, 399 to center, 375 to right-center, 320 to right
Hotels Nearby: Spring Hill Suites Pittsburgh North Shore, Renaissance Pittsburgh, The Priory Hotel, Marriott Courtyard Downtown, Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh
Thrill of victory: No need to print World Series Tickets for PNC Park just yet. The Pirates have struggled to regain the level of success they achieved with the “Killer B’s” lineup of the late 1980s and early 1990s that included Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds.
Agony of defeat: The Pirates have everything needed to make one of the numerous retro ballpark-infused jumps, a practice perfected by the Cleveland Indians after the opening of Jacobs Field. But Pittsburgh is missing one crucial ingredient: a winning team. The Pirates won just 62 games in 2001 when PNC Park opened.
Pirates Ticket Tips: Less than one-third of the PNC Park seats are in the upper deck. But even if your Pirates tickets are in the upper deck, you may not notice-it’s one of the most fan-friendly upper decks in the major leagues. Seats on the lower deck are comfortable and close, as Home Plate Club behind home are approximately 50 feet from the plate. The Pirates brought back another feature of ballparks of yesteryear, as they have general admission bleacher seats available for $9 in a section just in front of the Outback Steakhouse in left field. You can purchase a Pirates ticket behind either dugout for just $32, one of the more reasonable field-front seating prices in the major leagues.