For a franchise with a long and storied history as the Pittsburgh Pirates, building just any
new ballpark would not do... The Pirates new home would have to combine the
architecture of the surrounding downtown cityscape, with hints of their history and former
venues, and reflect the blue collar grittiness of the local folk. All this would have to blend
in with a facility which is attractive and functional. Would Pittsburgh be up to the
challenge? After the day we spent there, our answer would have to be a resounding YES.
PNC Park opened just this past April, and replaced their former home next door... Three
Rivers Stadium, which was demolished (in fact, didn't Sabretooth blow up the place
himself.?. thought we saw that clip on the jumbotron at a Sabres/Penguins playoff game...
yes we did!). The ballpark is built in a two deck configuration, with some outfield seating,
and the seating capacity is just over 38,000 seats, smaller than the norm in today's age of
Getting to the venue is as easy as getting to Three Rivers was... with expressway access
off I-279. Parking was a chore, being a weekday/non-holiday game, and many lots were
closed off for permit holders only, but gratefullly we found a ramp just a few steps from the
door, at a reasonable $10 cost. Another cool way to go to the game is by riding the Gateway
Clipper. This large ferry boat departs from Station Square at the other end of downtown
and takes you on a pleasant ride down the river dropping you off right behind the ballpark.
We would have done it, except for the #&^*&^% lack of parking at Station Square!
Outside the venue
The ballpark is located right along the river, and literally abutting the outfield perimeter of
the stadium is the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which takes you across the Allegheny River
and into downtown. This bridge is closed to vehicles on game days, and was packed with
pedestrians making their way over to the park. The neighborhood itself is rapidly emerging
as one of Pittsburgh's coolest areas, with surface parking nicely repaved since we were
last here, condos and lofts going up, even a couple of nice patio bars with more on the
way, and the North Shore Riverfront Park, a major reconstruction and redesign of this
public space between the two new sports venues.
Walking around the stadium is a feast to the eyes! PNC Park passed on the current hot
design concept, that being red brick fascia with wrought iron, and instead designed a park
with a tan/brown granite exterior, reflective of many of the adjoining buildings and the
skyscrapers across the river. There are two main entrances to the building, designed as
"rotundas" - one behind home plate and the second at the left field corner. And
celebrating their rich heritage one can find three statues of their best of the best - Honus
Wagner, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. Decorative flags honoring more of their
greats adorn the frames alongside the building --- one of our favorites was that of catcher
Tony Pena, who spent some time in Buffalo back at the Old Rockpile.
Past the left field entrance and on the way to the Clemente Bridge is the Pirates
administrative building, and several retail outlets built right into the ballpark - open to the
fans on game days and throughout the year. They include a coffee shop, a pizzeria, a
branch of PNC Bank, an art gallery and also an Outback Steakhouse with a terrific view of
As we stated, there are two decks in this ballpark, but the upper deck actually incorporates
the club seating, aptly named the Pittsburgh Baseball Club, and this area of seats is served
by its own climate controlled concourse. The lower concourse has a view of the playing
field, and one can walk all the way around and enjoy terrific views of the river and the
boats while walking outside the right field wall in an area called the Riverwalk. One of the
few (but major) design flaws in this building is the narrowness of the field level concourse,
especially between home plate and left field. There was a capacity crowd on this beautiful,
sun drenched day, and navigating around the building was somewhat difficult. Escalator
towers near the left field rotunda and near home plate take you upstairs to the upper deck.
We were also impressed by the large murals depicting great moments in Pirates history.
The main team store is located at left field near the administration building - two levels and
a huge assortment of merchandise. There are also several additional smaller team stores
scattered throughout the park.
In addition to a private suite level located between the upper and lower deck is a separate
club area called the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. Three lounges/restaurants make up the club,
and each one has its own patio jutting out into the seating area and offering a great view
of the action. At left field is Keystone Corner, offering billiard tables, and the home plate
lounge, Bierbauer's, featured its own carvery serving up monster sized sandwiches. Great
Pirates memorabilia adorns the walls throughout the concourse. Nicely appointed seating
areas, HDTV ready monitors and specialty drink offerings make this club experience
Following the newest revenue creating pattern in the big leagues, the Pirates have set up
a super premium section of roughly 400 seats directly behind home plate. Patrons in these
seats are treated to a buffet, their own private entrance from the street and their own
private club lounge. At $150-$175 per ticket we hope the food is great!
"Pop's Plaza", a food court near the left field rotunda offers several stands with specialty
food items, and for only the second time in the Ultimate Sports Road Trip we found
Pierogies! (Is Sophie Masloff still mayor or what?). The Outback Steakhouse overlooking
left field is the main stadium restaurant. But we have to highlight the major concession
item - it is called the Primanti Sandwich. The Primanti Brothers created this concoction, and
we will attempt to describe it here - take sourdough bread, add meat (cheesesteak or
sausage are the top choices), then add tomato, cole slaw, and french fries right in the
sandwich. Slap it together and it is an amazing taste treat! Definitely a 'Burgh thing!
Divided into two decks, all seats here are colored dark blue, and the rotunda steel
structures and other accents are also painted blue to match. Again, breaking away from the
Camden Yards model of brick fascias/wrought iron/kelly green seats offers a refreshing
change, and the combination here makes for a stunning appearance. The press box here
is located at the top of the second deck, and because this ballpark is so intimate, the view
from there is really good. Even from the top row of the second deck, one is close to the
field here and the term "nosebleed" is not applicable here. Off to left center field is a giant
jumbotron board, with companion dot matrix boards on either side. Just as at Enron Field,
the Pirates offer a streaming ticker for hearing impaired fans.
The major difference from Three Rivers and this venue is the view from the seating area...
right across the river is the beautiful Pittsburgh skyline, and in the foreground is the
Clemente bridge. We can't even imagine a more spectacular and breathtaking view in any
other ballpark venue, major or minor league.
Near each foul pole along the balcony is a digital LED board... we are wondering which MLB
team is going to set the trend and install a complete digital effects board from foul pole to
foul pole. When it happens remember, you read it here first! Also, the ramps curling up the
left field rotunda offers a great place to stand and watch the game.
The tall light poles rising high above the seating bowl were desgined to replicate those at
At field level along right field is the out of town scoreboard, which has the look of a retro
hand operated scoreboard but is much more high tech than that. The board not only offers
scores, but through a clever light code offers the exact game situation, all done in real
time.... runner on base, number of outs, etc. Definitely unique and the best we have seen
as far as keeping fans informed! We should also mention that there is a counter near the
right field pole displaying how many home runs have reached the Allegheny River. As of
this date, the counter stood at 00. Lastly, atop the wall at dead center is a nicely
landscaped knoll with evergreen trees and a shrub bed shaped in the "P" Pirates logo.
Eight retired numbers - of Billy Meyer, Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Danny Murtaugh,
Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Pie Traynor and Bill Mazeroski all handsomely displayed on
the balcony right behind home plate. But where are the CHAMPIONSHIP BANNERS!!? Those
banners were the centerpiece of Three Rivers Stadium, yet are nowhere to be found at
PNC in the seating bowl.
Great thing brought over from Three Rivers -- In addition to Primantis, that great organ
music with the unique Pittsburgh and Pirates chants.
Bad thing brought over from Three Rivers - the cast of ushers, still shilling for tips, ready
to toss you out and give you a stern lecture to boot if you perform the egregious sin of
walking down an aisle other than where your seat is. These guys are ancient --- not only
were they at Forbes Field, but probably Exposition Park as well. Hey guys--- lighten up!!!
Cool video clip --- the Budweiser unforgettable "Whassup!" campaign, done by various
Pirates mascots right after the 7th inning stretch. If you are a true beer chugging sports
fan then "Whassup!" is your mantra!
Our quest for hallowed grounds - we have already made the trek to Forbes Field at the Pitt
campus, so the visit to the Three Rivers site was an easy one - right next door! And Heinz
Field, new home of the Steelers, is nearing completion and will open in August. We will be
back to Heinz Field come October.. Damn! Once again we are on a mission for game
We would like to extend our thanks to Steve Greenberg, Vice President, Ballpark
Development, for the tour and for graciously spending some time with us to talk to us
about PNC Park. We also extend our appreciation to Dan Hart, Pirates Media Relations for
furnishing us credentials. Thank you guys... and we welcome you both into the Ultimate
Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame!
Also we would like to mention that we caught up and exchanged a few words with Greg
Brown, former Bills and Bisons broadcaster who now works as play by play announcer for
the Pittsburgh Pirates. Greg is a great guy and sends his best wishes along to all his
friends and associates in Buffalo!
The missing championship banners and concourse congestion are about the only two
deductions we can come up with, but otherwise we are hard pressed to find any fault with
this ballpark. Being smaller than the norm, this venue offers an intimacy hard to find in the
big leagues, and overall the location, architecture, amenities, comfort and sense of history
make this baseball experience among the best in the game.
Fan Support 4.5
Concourses/fan comfort 6.5
Pierogi Race 1; USRT assist 2; Downtown view 2