PNC Park - Pittsburgh Pirates
Photos by Dave Cottenie and Patricia Beninato
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
PNC Park 115 Federal St Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Year Opened: 2001 Capacity: 38,747
Simply the Best …
In 2001, the Pittsburgh Pirates moved out of their multi-purpose, donut-shaped stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, and into their new, state of the art home on the banks of the Allegheny River, PNC Park. From then on it became a bit of a friendly argument as to where the best ballpark in Major League Baseball is. Invariably, all roads at least consider the Pittsburgh Pirates to have the best home, with many steadfast in their belief that PNC is the best. All of the charm felt in older ballparks met with modern amenities and a backdrop that is second to none, PNC Park makes the Pirates relevant in an era where their play on the field does not. PNC Park is owned by the Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Pirates owner Robert Nutting has not been popular in the Steel City with fans, but recent resurgence shows that there is hope for the franchise going forward.
Food & Beverage 5
The culinary experience at PNC Park is as good as anywhere in Major League Baseball. A wide variety of concession options are available throughout the park with special attention paid to local favorites. Pops’ Plaza is the hub for concession items and is found in the left field corner. Seating options for dining on those ballpark favs is also available in the plaza. To go with all of the expected ballpark options, fans will want to take in the local delicacies like Mrs. T’s Pierogies, Quaker Steak and Lube, Chickie’s and Pete’s and Primanti Bros. Manny’s BBQ and Market, located in centerfield is also a favorite. Fans may even get lucky enough to hit the BBQ when Manny Sanguien is in attendance. The local beer scene is also solid at PNC. Leinenkugel, Iron City and Fat Head’s will make the trip truly Pittsburgh.
It is difficult to argue that there is a better ballpark than PNC Park in the majors. The exterior of the park is distinctly Pittsburgh featuring light coloured stone and dark iron i-beams. The Pirates do a masterful job honouring their own history both inside and outside of the park. Terrific meeting places for fans are found at any of the four bronze statues outside of the ballpark. Honus Wagner is found outside of home plate; Roberto Clemente at left field; Willie Stargell at third base; and the iconic pose of Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases after winning the World Series with a home run, can be found outside of right field. The retired numbers of Pirate greats are found on a berm past right field between the ballpark and the river in a new feature, which goes well with the new oversized baseballs celebrating Pittsburgh Pirate greats and Negro League legends along the riverwalk.
Inside PNC Park, a new, interactive kids play area highlights new upgrades made at PNC. Possibly the most underrated feature of PNC Park is its intimacy. With a modest capacity of under 39,000, the park feels homey and fresh, as opposed to cavernous and empty. 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. Outfield flags honouring the 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979 World Series championships fly proudly. A standout feature of PNC is the brand new, state-of-the-art, crystal clear, videoboard beyond leftfield.
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 North Shore neighborhood is fantastic and offers a variety of pre and post game food options. Spots in the immediate area include SoHo, Mullen’s Bar and Grill, Beerhead Bar, McFadden’s, North Shore Tavern, Mike’s Beer Bar, and The Foundry.
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 Acrisure Stadium, 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 UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse and in nearby Moon Township, the Robert Morris Colonials play basketball at the new UPMC Events Center, while hockey will return to RMU in 2023 off campus at Clearview Arena at the RMU Island Sports Center.
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, SpringHill Suites and Holiday Inn.
With a vast history of championship teams surrounding the Pirates with both the Steelers and Penguins, the attendance at Pirate games is relatively poor. At the time of writing, the Pirates are averaging just over 19,000 fans for the 2023 season. This places them 26th in MLB. This does represent improvement from the 2022 season where the Pirates averaged just over 15,000 fans and ranked 27th. The game which was attended for this review saw a crowd of over 21,000. In a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, it is unclear whether increased crowds will push better performance on the field or vice-versa. Either way, the Pirates need to draw more fans to the park to improve the score in this area, especially since PNC Park is so much better a facility for fans than many other ballparks.
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. Bridge closings, specifically the Roberto Clemente Bridge, during gamedays can be an issue, so fans should plan the 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 Acrisure Stadium is the Allegheny Subway station. Check out the Port Authority of Allegheny website for maps, schedules and fares.
With close proximity to Acrisure Stadium 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.
With the state of security in major sports in constant flux, Stadium Journey highly recommends consulting the Pittsburgh Pirates website for the most up to date security information including protocols, bag policy and prohibited items.
Return on Investment 5
There is no better value in Major League Baseball than at PNC Park. According to the 2022 Fan Cost Index, the Pittsburgh Pirates offer the third least expensive experience in Major League Baseball. At $150.25, the Pirates are well below the MLB average of $204.76. Tickets can be found for under $25 in the upper deck. However the best value can be found behind the plate, where the Home Plate Box can be purchased for far less than comparative seats in other ballparks. Parking can be found for an expected $15 - $20 and concession prices are decent. Combine that with the opportunity to see baseball in the best ballpark in the country and it is one of the best experiences that can be found in sports.
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 point for the City of Pittsburgh going beyond expectations. 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.
An extra point 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 for the increased embrace of the Pittsburgh connection to the Negro Leagues and their history. A number of nods can be found in and out of the ballpark that embrace the stars of the league.
For any fan of baseball, a trip to see the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park is an absolute must. With some improved play on the field this season, hopefully more fans will embrace the experience and flood the park on the banks of the Allegheny.